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On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  194 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Oprah Winfrey is renowned for her media savvy, marketing sense, philanthropic efforts, and accumulated wealth (and the power that accompanies it). She's earned her rep, of course, and her path to stardom and influence couldn't have been easy. Imagine, then, how difficult it must have been a century ago for Madam C. J. Walker, America's first female African-American million ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Scribner (first published 2001)
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Regina Lindsey
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by Alelia Perry Bundles
5 Stars and a heart

When I came across this passage in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society book I captured it as a favorite quote because it resonated with me in terms of my reading habits. "That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressi
Dec 18, 2011 Lynell rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in African American history
Recommended to Lynell by: Harris Snack and Yak
Shelves: history, biography
Our group felt that this biography of Madam C.J. Walker, written by her great-great-granddaughter, was well written and extremely well researched. The readers admired Madam for her persistence in keeping her eyes on the goal, even to the detriment of her health. We appreciated learning more about the history of African Americans in politics and the role of African American soldiers in WWI. Many in our group felt bogged down by the wealth of information, some of which seemed to detract from the m ...more
Dawn Lennon
May 08, 2013 Dawn Lennon rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
It's startling finally to discover important business and social leaders who have made a big difference long forgotten. That's the case with Madam C.J. Walker, the most financially successful (actually serious wealthy) and notable black woman entrepreneur. On her own, she overcame abject poverty in the south in the late 1800s and years as a laundress after moving to the mid-West. Following, quite literally a dream, she came up with a formula to help black women grow hair routinely lost through a ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: history-stuff
I first "met" Madam CJ Walker during my internship at the Women's Museum. We had a few of her cosmetics for display, and she just seemed like an amazing woman. The first African American millionaire, male or female, she created a cosmetics empire long before Mary Kay. This biography is written by her granddaughter, which is both a good and bad thing. She did an excellent job of setting the stage--Walker was definitely a part of the movers and shakers in Jim Crow America. That being said, it took ...more
Mar 22, 2015 L.A. rated it it was amazing
This terrific biography examines the life of hair care maven Madam C.J. Walker from her humble roots to the worldwide reputation she possessed at the time of her death. Most people know about Madam Walker's accomplishments in beauty culture, but they probably don't know the extent of her philanthropy and social/political activism in the black community of her time. She was active in the anti-lynching movement, for example, and frequently gave money to schools and organizations that would help bl ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
A’Lelia Bundles’ biography of Madam C. J. Walker, On Her Own Ground, was much more than I had anticipated. Part of the title is “The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker” but I was not prepared for the eye-opening effect African-American history – the ”times” part of the story - would have on me. It’s more than a backdrop to the life story of this most remarkable woman who was born to ex-slaves two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln. Born in Delta, Louisiana ...more
C Baker
Oct 04, 2014 C Baker rated it really liked it
What Madame C. J. Walker was able to accomplish in her lifetime is simply remarkable given the numerous impediments she encountered. She is the epitome of the rags to riches success story -- as well an example of what guts and determination really mean. While the biography is well written -- it's the facts themselves that make Madame Walker's story so intriguing and inspiring. Walker went from extreme poverty to wealthy business owner, civil rights leader, and philanthropist.

Madame Walker grew u
Dec 12, 2011 Dianne rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: readers interested in history
Recommended to Dianne by: read for Harris library book club
Shelves: biography
I appreciated reading about a woman who made such a huge impact on the beauty industry as well as learning more about Madam C.J. Walker's innovative business philosophy, her strong desire to make a charitable impact, and her efforts to support racial equality. There is no question that she was an amazing woman. Where I appreciated learning about her set against the background of the social and cultural times, there was way more information in the book than I could digest.
Diane Lybbert
Aug 30, 2014 Diane Lybbert rated it really liked it
Incredible true story of Madam C.J. Walker, the first black female entrepreneur in US history to build a national business and become a millionaire. Her parents were freed slaves working as sharecroppers in 1876 when she was born. Self-educated and highly ambitious, she built an empire in the cosmetic business, developing products to heal unhealthy scalps and promote hair growth in black women. She trained other black women to sell the products and open salons, lifting an entire generation of po ...more
Madame CJ Walker's life and business is an example of capitalism fulfilling it's ideal around the turn of the century in the USA. Starting her career as a poor black washer woman, she was able to gradually amass wealth by creating an international corporation that sold hair care products for black women. Not only was she a self-made woman developing her own business but she used her wealth and power to pursue civil rights and empowerment for, as she said, "the betterment of her race".

Madame CJ W
Jul 31, 2015 Dana rated it it was ok
Written by Madam C.J. Walker's great, great granddaughter, the book was well-researched and thorough. The negative for me was that it read like a textbook and was too dry. Madam C.J.'s accomplishments as one of our country's first African American entrepreneurs were stellar, especially considering it was the very early part of the 20th century. I only wish that the book was more interesting....Madam C.J. deserved it. 2.5/5
Mar 12, 2008 Sumi rated it liked it
This is the second biography I've read on Madame C. J. Walker and it was written by her great-great-granddaughter.

I find Madame Walker fascinating in her accomplishments. She had so many obstacles to overcome and yet in spite of race, gender, and lack of education she founded her own business and became a millionaire. Hers is a story that ALL women can enjoy.

There's a lot of social history tossed in with the book of events that were impacting all African Americans of the time and for me that dis
Sonja Williams
Feb 12, 2015 Sonja Williams rated it really liked it
Jul 17, 2014 Robyn marked it as to-read
Jennifer Stoy
This was an insightful look, not only into Madam CJ Walker's life, but of how African Americans negotiated the world of Jim Crow and rampant disinterest in violence against them by white folks and the tensions in that world. There's a reason we don't hear much about history between 1865 and the New Deal, and a large part of it is the disgraceful racial oppression (to go with the oppression of the poor and women and such)
Jul 10, 2016 Beverlee rated it it was amazing
Awesome read! Mme. Walker's story is an inspiration to all. I especially loved reading how she came to be such a successful businesswoman from such a humble beginning. To know this was possible 100+ years me great hope for my own future. I appreciate the author's meticulous attention to details & including the important events of the day, that just makes the story more amazing.
Nov 05, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it
I freely admit I'd not have picked this up but for my book club. Still, I'm glad I did. I learned a lot about the African-American situation after the Civil War, but prior to the Civil Rights era, and Madam Walker's was a true rags-to-riches story which was, unfortunately, all too rare in those times.
Nov 28, 2007 Graceann rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Biography Fans
Shelves: biography
This biography lagged a little in the middle, but was all in all a very interesting story of the country's first African-American woman millionaire. She was an inspirational lady - successful in business life, not so much privately, but well worth exploring.
Feb 16, 2009 Babydoll rated it it was amazing
This was a well written and detailed biography that I read in graduate school at Howard University. I highly recommend this book to all who want to learn more about an African American icon.
Aug 27, 2007 Lp added it
My children are really into Madame CJ Walker (the things they learn in school these days!), and this looks interesting.
One of many autographed books. I have not started reading it yet!
Jul 08, 2015 JayeL marked it as to-read
July 2015: not available on audio at Mechanics' Institute
Nov 23, 2011 Katrina rated it really liked it
November library book club selection
Nov 23, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
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A’Lelia Bundles is president of the Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives and author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling biography of her great-great-grandmother. After a 30-year career as an executive and Emmy award winning producer with NBC News and ABC News, she now devotes her time to writing and serving on nonprof ...more
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