Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C. J. Walker

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Jul 20, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 496 pages
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“I am a woman that came from the cotton fields of the South; I was promoted from there to the wash-tub; then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations.”
--Madam C. J. Walker, National Negro Business League Convention, 1912

Now, from a writer acclaimed for her novels and the memoir Crossed Over, a remarkable biography of a truly heroic figure.

Madam C. J. Walker created a cosmetics empire and became known as the first female self-made millionaire in this nation’s history, a noted philanthropist and champion of women’s rights and economic freedom. These achievements seem nothing less than miraculous given that she was born, in 1867, to former slaves in a hamlet on the Mississippi River. How she came to live on another river, the Hudson, in a Westchester County mansion, and in a New York City town house, is at once inspirational and mysterious, because for all that is known about the famous entrepreneur, much that occurred before her magnificent transformation—years that trace a circuitous route across the country—remains obscure.

By breathing life into scattered clues and dry facts, and with a deep understanding of the times and places through which Madam Walker moved, Beverly Lowry tells a story that stretches from the antebellum South to the Harlem Renaissance and bridges nearly a century of our history in her search for the distant truths of a woman who defied all odds and redefined conventional expectations.

“Wherever there was one colored person, whether it was a city, a town, or a puddle by the railroad tracks, everybody knew her name.”
--Violet Davis Reynolds, Stenographer, Madam C. J. Walker Co

From the Hardcover edition.

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Her dream of dreams: the rise and triumph of Madam C. J. Walker

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Historians have largely overlooked the remarkable success of Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) in establishing a line of hair products for African Americans and amassing a personal fortune. On Her Own ... Read full review


Who She Was
I Where She Came From 18671878photo credit 11
Croppers Child
Minerva Breedlove
Burney the Planter
Death and Babies
II Vicksburg 18781887photo credit 12
On the P F Geisse
Decades End
The Wizard in Indianapolis
Visit to Tuskegee
Standing Up to the Wizard
The Negro Woman in Business

A Dream of Kansas
III St Louis 18871905photo credit 13
Mound City
Standing Up to Say So
September 22
Quaker Oats
Annie Turnbo
The Fair
IV Denver 19051907photo credit 14
Big Year
V Pittsburgh 19071910photo credit 15
The Fame of Her Goods
AfroAmerican Notes
A Lucrative Business
Lelia Robinson
Letter to Dr Washington
VI Indianapolis 19101916photo credit 16
The Walker Co
So That Other Women of My Race May Take Hold of Similar Work and Make It Good
Letter from Haiti
The Foremost Businesswoman of Our Race
The Mistake
Her World Opens Up Yet Again
Margaret Joyner and Our Hair40
VII Harlem 19161918photo credit 17
From Delta to the Dream
Hot Springs
Ground Breaking
The Road the Times
A Simple Visible Act
VIII Villa Lewaro 19181919photo credit 18
A Negro Institution Purchased with Negro Money
Last Days
Daughter Arrives
IX Afterwards 19191931photo credit 19
The Joy Goddess of Harlem
Harlem Scrapbook
Her Dream of Dreams
Selected Bibliography
Photo Credits

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About the author (2011)

The author of six novels–and of Crossed Over, the story of her friendship with Karla Faye Tucker–Beverly Lowry is the director of the Creative Nonfiction Program at George Mason University. She lives in Washington, D.C.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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