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Walker, A’Lelia  

A'Lelia Perry Bundles

A’Lelia Walker, heiress to the hair care empire created by her mother Madam C. J. Walker, is best remembered as the hostess of the Dark Tower, the salon that served as a magnet for Harlem Renaissance writers, artists, actors, and musicians. Inspired by her flamboyant style, her wealth, and her interest in the arts, the poet Langston Hughes called her “the joy goddess of Harlem’s 1920s” in his autobiography The Big Sea.

Born Lelia McWilliams in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Walker was the only child of Moses McWilliams and Sarah Breedlove McWilliams, who later would become Madam Walker, the influential early-twentieth-century beauty industry pioneer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist. Little is known about Lelia’s father, who died around 1887. After his death, mother and daughter moved to St. Louis, where three Breedlove brothers operated a barbershop.

The McWilliams s transition to the unfamiliar fast paced city was ...


Walker, A'Lelia  

Theresa Leininger-Miller

businesswoman, philanthropist, and art patron. Statuesque, outgoing, and elegantly dressed, A’Lelia Walker was host to Harlem's cultural elite in the 1920s. Born Lelia McWilliams in Vicksburg, Mississippi, she was the only child of Sarah Breedlove McWilliams and Moses McWilliams. After the death of Lelia's father when Lelia was two, her mother took her to Saint Louis, where she attended L’Ouverture Elementary School. In 1902 Lelia entered Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a seventh-grade student; she graduated four years later.

In 1906 Lelia moved to Denver, Colorado. That year Sarah, who had joined her daughter, married Charles Joseph Walker and both women took his last name. Under the name Madam C. J. Walker Sarah developed products that softened and straightened African American women's hair and soon created a booming company. She left Lelia in charge of the company from the fall of 1906 to the ...