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Self Made

Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

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Now a Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer, Self Made (formerly titled On Her Own Ground) is the first full-scale biography of “one of the great success stories of American history” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), Madam C.J. Walker—the legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist—by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.

The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Sarah Breedlove—who would become known as Madam C. J. Walker—was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women, and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great early-twentieth-century political figures such as Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington.

Photograph by Que Duong

A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, is Walker’s biographer and great-great-granddaughter. She is chair emerita of the National Archives Foundation and a former ABC News Washington deputy bureau chief. Visit her website at ALeliaBundles.com.

Photograph by Que Duong

A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, is Walker’s biographer and great-great-granddaughter. She is chair emerita of the National Archives Foundation and a former ABC News Washington deputy bureau chief. Visit her website at ALeliaBundles.com.