Walker, Madam C. J.
- A'Lelia Perry Bundles
entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta (Madison Parish), Louisiana, the fifth of six children of Minerva to Anderson and Owen Breedlove Sr., sharecroppers and former slaves.
Orphaned at seven years old, she had almost no formal education during her early life. Around 1878—when racial violence was at its most virulent in her rural Louisiana parish—she moved with her elder sister, Louvenia Breedlove Powell, across the Mississippi River to Vicksburg. At fourteen Sarah married Moses McWilliams, about whom almost nothing is known, to escape what she called the “cruelty” of her brother-in-law Jesse Powell. Around 1887 when the McWilliamses' daughter Lelia, later known as A'Lelia Walker, was two years old, Moses died. Although some sources say he was lynched, there is no credible documentation to justify such a claim.
To support herself and her daughter, Sarah McWilliams ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.