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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 ...