On this edition of the Women’s Film Institute podcast, host, Scarlett Shepard, speaks with author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles about her book On Her Own Ground, which is slated to become a TV series about entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist, Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919). A’Lelia Bundles shares the legacy of her great-great-grandmother, Madam C.J. Walker, the country’s first African-American millionaire, who helped women become entrepreneurs in the 20th century. Kasi Lemmons is attached to direct the series. Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer has signed on to play Madam C.J. Walker, and will become a producer of the show. LeBron James, in association with his production company, SpringHill Entertainment, has joined the team as an executive producer. The series is still in development for the kind of limited series we’ve come to expect on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime.
Madam C.J. Walker’s story is one that should be in all history books. She worked as a washerwoman, making as little as $1.50 per day. She suffered from hair loss, and created a shampoo and scalp ointment to remedy her condition. She called it, “Wonderful Hair Grower,” and in 1910, she built a hair training school and factory, the headquarters of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Co. The company trained thousands of African-Americans to become “Walker Agents,” and provided opportunities to women who otherwise would have been maids, cooks, and laundresses to gain financial independence.
“I got my start by giving myself a start.” – Madam C.J. Walker
By the time Madam C.J. Walker died in May 1919, she and her teaching faculty had trained more than 20,000 Walker agents. Tune in to our latest podcast episode with A’Lelia Bundles, and learn how Madam C.J. Walker inspired women to become entrepreneurs in the 20th century.