A’lelia Walker

A’lelia Walker


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



  As the decade of the 20s ended A’Lelia, as she came to name herself, the joy of life

and alcohol began to take its toll on her six-foot frame. The parties came to an end 

with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.



 Ben Neihart. Rough Amusements: The True Story of A’Lelia Walker, Patroness of the Harlem Renaissance’s Down-Low Culture. 2003

Tananarive Due. The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s First Black Female Millionaire. 2001

A’Lelia Bundles. On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. 2002

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A’Lelia McWilliams Walker 


Corporate Executive & Arts Supporter


Lelia McWilliams (1885-1931)– born in Vickburg, Mississippi — was a patron to the so-called “black literati” of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. She was the only child of Madam C. J. Walker, who abandoned by Lelia father’s became a washerwoman but later an inventor and famously wealthy as result of her hair-care business.

When her mother died in 1919, Walker inherited the business and the lavish family estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington, New York. She hosted parties in her “Dark Tower”  and entertained such writers as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, and other writers. 

Her regal African beauty, lavish clothing, and glamorous lifestyle, inspired singers, poets, and sculptors. Langston Hughes called her the “joy goddess of Harlem’s 1920’s”; Zora Neale Hurston outlined a play about her and her mother; and Carl Van Vechten based his Nigger Heaven character, Adora Boniface, on her. 

Her grandparents were former slaves who were forced into sharecropping. Her father was Moses McWilliams. She married a man named Robinson (divorced, 1914); married Wiley Wilson, (a doctor), 1919 (marriage ended); married James Arthur Kennedy (a doctor), early 1920s (divorced, 1931). In 1912 she adopted named Mae Bryant Perry

Walker grew up in St. Louis, Mo., and attended Knoxville College in Tennessee before going to work for her mother, Madame Walker. She helped her mother found The Mme. C. J. Walker Mfg. Co. in 1905. From 1908 to 1914 she managed  the Pittsburgh  branch of her mother’s hair-care product empire and also oversaw Lelia College, a school of cosmetology run by the company and became manager of the Walker College of Hair Culture, New York City and opened its New York office and beauty salon in 1913. Upon Madam Walker’s death in 1919, A’Lelia Walker became president of the company. 

Her interest in Africa led her in 1922 to become one of the only westerners to visit Ethiopian Empress Waizeru Zauditu.  She also too a trip to South America. Some upperclass Harlemites snubbed her for being the daughter of a washerwoman, though Madame Walker was the country’s first female self-made American millionaire. Privately, elitist lighter-skinned blacks dismissed Walker as “the Mahogany Millionairess.” In addition, Walker was also quite tolerant of gays within her society. Grace Nail Johnson, the wife of novelist James Weldon Johnson and  grand dame of Harlem society, was one of those who were pleased that she never crossed the threshold of Walker’s residences nor The Dark Tower.

As the decade of the 20s ended A’Lelia, as she came to name herself, the joy of life and alcohol began to take its toll on her six-foot frame. The parties came to an end  with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.  The dark Tower was close in 1930. Antiques and luxuries were auctioned. On August 16, 1931, in the early morning after hosting a birthday party for a friend A’Lelia Walker expired. Hers was a memorable funeral.

Harlem turned out for Walker’s funeral. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. eulogized her; college founder Mary McLeod Bethune spoke of the legacy left by both Walker and her mother, and Langston Hughes contributed a poem, “To A’Lelia,” which read, in part: “So all who love laughter/And joy and light,/Let your prayers be as roses/For this queen of the night.”

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 1 May 2009



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