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Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  4,355 ratings  ·  92 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
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published March 2020 (first published 2001)
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The Grimm Reader Yes, they are the same book-- nothing new or changed. I believe that they renamed it to "Self Made" after the Netflix mini series where it was probabl…moreYes, they are the same book-- nothing new or changed. I believe that they renamed it to "Self Made" after the Netflix mini series where it was probably renamed to "Self Made" because it was just a bit more catchy than "On Her Own Ground."'s description of the book also confirmed that it is the same book. (less)

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Average rating 3.46  · 
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 ·  4,355 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Richard Derus
A 2020 Netflix limited series will star Bill Bellamy, Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood and more starpower!

This is excellent news.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
I LOVED this.
This is SO interesting!
The author gives so much period details and peripheral history.
Beautifully done!
I'm off to watch the show at last:)
Dawn Lennon
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carol Irvin
Loved the mini series but the book reads like a textbook ...
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in African American history
Recommended to Lynell by: Harris Snack and Yak
Shelves: biography, history
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
Mar 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent biography of Madam CJ Walker. I was always really interested in her as a child and lately, in caring for my daughter's hair and establishing career goals, I've become even more interested in this inspiring self-starter. This is a great detailed account of her family life and how she became the inspiring individual that she was. Excellent book! ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
long and rambling. Interesting facts, but wanders around a lot.
Maya B
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I really enjoyed the netflix original series.
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles take a long look at an amazing Black woman. While she was never a millionaire, she was very wealthy and used her money both wisely and the indulge in all she lacked coming of age. Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, she was born free but in a poor family and soon was orphaned and lived with siblings. Her parents had lived on the property in Louisiana what had once been a plantation. Yet, it was in disarray and her parents’ d ...more
Read in honor of the centennial of US Women's Suffrage. In The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, Elaine F. Weiss points out that women's professional work experience made possible their getting the vote. When the 19th Admendment was signed into law, some black women voted. So I have included in my study professional black women.

Earlier this year I watched the Netflix movie Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C J Walker. After watching that show, I knew I would include Madame
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started reading this after watching the Netflix show. Therefore I think the Netflix series did very well on making me interested and making me want to find out more about Madam C.J. Walker. The Netflix show did change a bunch of things, mostly to have more drama in the show. I understand that for almost everything they did.
(view spoiler)
Mary Sisney
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Readers who are expecting a history of black women’s hair or the beauty products business will be disappointed. This book focuses more on Madam Walker’s experiences as a wealthy socialite and a political activist than on the beauty business. It’s a very timely book because of what’s happening in our country now. In fact, it met this historical moment so well that I briefly thought Madam’s death in May, 1919 might be from the so-called Spanish flu, which was mentioned as she was gravely ill with ...more
Dianne McMahan
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it
From Rags to Riches

This is about a woman of color who made and sold hair products in the late 1800's.
She tried to let all woman of color realize a dream,that they could be more.
She died young and left a fortune to her daughter,who.went thru her mother's money ,before she too died at an early age.
I read this book.after watching the movie and found it not nearly as satisfying.
Fabulous Book Fiend
I need to read this one before I watch the show!
Apr 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first introduction to Madame C.J. Walker was through the television show called Mysteries as the Museum. The host held up this small tin of hair product and told an interesting but pared-down story of Walker's rise to fame. Having never heard about Walker before, I was fascinated by her story, but also annoyed by the fact that I had never heard her story before. How can somebody that achieved so much be left out of history?

In recent years, however, more stories of well-deserved women are comi
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I can only give it a 2.5. The story of Madam CJ Walker is incredibly fascinating given how she was born into slavery and preserved to become one of the wealthiest women in the early 1900s. The determination she had to succeed and how much she hustled to make her dreams come true not only left me admiring her but also in awe because not everyone has that drive in them. I think it was also admirable that she wanted to not only uplift herself and her ...more
Reanin Mcroberts
Aug 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I was really excited to win this! I first became interested in the Madam Walker company after reading an article about her mansion in New Jersey. I’m not sure if I got mixed up because there was no Jersey connection in this story.
So, aside from being mildly disappointed that we can’t claim Madam Walker as one of our own, I enjoyed the story, but there were SO MANY FACTS and it was hard for me to keep track of all the characters. The part that was most fascinating to me was how Madam Walker was
May 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book because Madame CJ Walker is such a fascinating and inspiring woman and I wanted to know more about her story. I am a historian so I wasn’t deterred by previous reviewers description of boring details, etc. Most of this information served well to contextualize Madame CJ Walker’s life and in the times in which she lived. What I actually did have a problem with was the amount of “analysis” of fairly unimportant details such as whether or not a letter was a ghost wr ...more
Did not finish. If you are looking for a well written STORY about Madam CJ Walker, don't look here. This was written like a textbook. I can appreciate all of the research the author (who is great great granddaughter of the Madam) did and I do believe the story is as accurate as she could have possibly achieved. But, it wasn't written in an easily consumable format. There were way too many details (like actual addresses of where people lived) that could have been omitted or saved for the referenc ...more
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-history
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. ...more
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredible story of black history and powerful women looking out for each other. Incredible accomplishments to help women grow hair and provide them with a way out of poverty. Now to watch the Netflix series.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sonja Williams
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Farr
On Her Own Ground is a thorough, well-researched, impressive biography of Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, who became a hugely successful black businesswoman as an early pioneer in the black beauty products and hair culture market around the turn of the twentieth century. It's written by A'Lelia Bundles, a successful journalist and descendant of Madam Walker. It's packed with historical sidebars and character sketches of significant events and personalities that impacted America and Afri ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Self Made also known as On Her Own Ground by A'Lelia Bundles is an engrossing biography about Madam C.J. Walker, the Black woman behind a million-dollar hair care empire who became a Black History Month fixture yet the story of her life and rise to success is largely still shrouded.

Born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana, Madam C.J. Walker lived in poverty for decades with marrying as a teenager after her formerly enslaved parents died, dealing with abusive marriages, then making pennies as a washwom
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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A’Lelia Bundles is the author of four books about her entrepreneurial great-great-grandmother, including On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, the biography that inspired “Self Made,” the four-part Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer. The 2020 edition of this New York Times Notable Book is renamed Self Made. She is at work on The Joy Goddess of Harlem: A’Lelia Walker and ...more

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“When women saw her photo and heard her life story, they clamored to take her course and sit for her treatments. The twin promises of enhanced beauty and financial gain—not to mention Madam Walker’s own phenomenal personal example—served as a magnet to women who had always believed they would never be more than maids and laundresses.” 1 likes
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