Madam Walker as a Patron of the Arts (Black History Month 2014)

For Black History Month 2014 we are sharing little known facts about Madam Walker

Madam C. J. Walker was a patron of the arts who enjoyed promoting the works of young musicians, painters, singers and actors. (Photo: Madam Walker Family Archives)

Madam C. J. Walker was a patron of the arts who enjoyed promoting the works of young musicians, painters, singers and actors. (Photo: Madam Walker Family Archives)

Madam C. J. Walker very much enjoyed promoting the work of young African American artists. She hosted concerts to feature the work of black musicians and commissioned paintings by promising your artists. She enjoyed a ranged of music from ragtime and opera to spirituals and classical. Her home was filled with art and she counted musicians and actors like James Reese Europe, Bert Williams, Aida Overton Walker and Harry T. Burleigh among her friends.

One of the artists she particularly liked was William Edouard Scott (1884-1964), who was born in Indianpolis in the city where Madam Walker established her company headquarters in 1910. At her request, he painted a portrait of a local AME minister. Later he painted a scene of Walker’s Delta, Louisiana birthplace.

William Edouard Scott created an important body of work based on scenes he observed while living in Haiti.

William Edouard Scott created an important body of work based on scenes he observed while living in Haiti.

From MichaelRosenfeldArt.com: “William Edouard Scott was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he demonstrated an early aptitude for art. In 1904, he moved to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute (1904-1909). While a student there, Scott was commissioned to complete several murals in local schools; they are the earliest public works depicting African American subjects.”

“In 1909, Scott traveled to France, where he studied with Henry Ossawa Tanner. While abroad, he painted realistic images of Paris and the French countryside that reflected his academic training and the influence of Tanner. Scott sought to reinterpret Tanner’s dramatic use of light, his palette, and his expressive technique.”

William Edouard Scott was born in Indianapolis in 1884. He studied in Paris with Henry Osawa Tanner.

William Edouard Scott was born in Indianapolis in 1884. He studied in Paris with Henry Osawa Tanner.

“When he returned to Chicago, Scott sold his Paris paintings and was able to fund a second trip to Europe, during which he studied at the Académie Julien and the Académie Colarossi in Paris. He returned to the United States in 1914 and devoted himself to documenting the life experiences of black people, traveling and sketching throughout the rural south. During World War I, Scott went back to France and sketched images of African American soldiers. Both sets ofdrawings appeared on covers of The Crisis.”

“In 1931, Scott was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to study and paint in Haiti, where he adopted a more expressive style and brighter palette. He created over a hundred works during his thirteen months in Haiti and exhibited them in a Port-au-Prince show promoted by the Haitian government. The exhibition was an enormous success, and the president of Haiti purchased twelve works.”

Night Turtle Fishermen by William Edouard Scott 1931

Night Turtle Fishermen by William Edouard Scott 1931

“When he returned to the U.S., Scott painted for the Federal Art Project, creating public murals for the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair. In 1943, he was the only black artist chosen to create a mural for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C. By the end of his life, Scott had created over seventy-five murals celebrating black history and culture. In 2007, the Indiana State Museum organized the traveling retrospective Our Own Artist: Paintings by Indiana’s William Edouard Scott, 1884-1964.”

William Edouard Scott's paintings were featured in an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1996

William Edouard Scott’s paintings were featured in an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1996

William Edouard Scott’s work was featured in an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1996 along with the work of three other African American artists with ties to Indiana: John Wesley Hardrick, William Majors and Hale Aspacio Woodruff. The book, A Shared Heritage: Art by Four African Americans, was edited by William E. Taylor and Harriet G. Warkel.

CLICK HERE for a gallery of Scott’s work

Boy with Pumpkin WEScott

Maker of Goblins by William Edouard Scott

"Frederick Douglass Appealing to President Lincoln and his Cabinet to Enlist Negroes." This mural was painted by Scott for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, DC in 1943

“Frederick Douglass Appealing to President Lincoln and his Cabinet to Enlist Negroes.” This mural was painted by Scott for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, DC in 1943

Girls with Chicken by William Edouard Scott

Girls with Chicken by William Edouard Scott

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Madam C. J. Walker FAQ#1: “When and where was Madam Walker born?”

This gallery contains 4 photos.

 “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South.” –Madam C. J. Walker (1912 National Negro Business League Convention) Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana on the … Continue reading

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Faith Ringgold’s “The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles” and Madam C. J. Walker

Faith Ringgold's "The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles" and Madam C. J. Walker Between friendship links on Facebook and research on Ancestry.com (which I've decided is Facebook for the dearly departed), I've been able to make connections and conduct a level of intimate research for my new book about my great-grandmother, A'Lelia Walker, that I cou … Read More

via Madam Walker/A'Lelia Walker Family Archives

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Woodlawn Cemetery–Madam Walker’s Burial Place–Named National Historic Landmark

Gravesite of Madam Walker and A'Lelia Walker/Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx

June 30, 2011: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that The Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx–where enterpreneur Madam C. J. Walker and her Harlem Renaissance arts patron daughter, A’Lelia Walker, are buried–has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest recognition accorded to the nation’s most historically significant properties.

There are two other National Historic Landmarks associated with the legacy of the Walker women: The Madam Walker Theatre Center, a cultural arts organization in Indianapolis, and Villa Lewaro, the home Madam Walker built in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York in 1918.

Madam Walker died on May 25, 1919 at Villa Lewaro, where her funeral was held on May 30. Among the pallbearers were New York Age publisher Fred Moore, composer J. Rosamond Johnson, and Alpha Phi Alpha founder Vertner Tandy, Villa Lewaro’s architect. Continue reading

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Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower

When Madam C. J. Walker founded the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1906 in Denver, her first two products were Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower and a vegetable-based shampoo. Within the next few years she added a product called Tetter Salve (to treat severe dandruff) and Glossine (an ointment that was used to protect the hair when being straightened with a hot comb).

While many people believe Madam Walker invented the hot comb, that information is not true. Nor did she invent “perms” or chemical straighteners. In fact, she never used the kinds of chemical straighteners that began to become popular among black women during the 1950s.

Walker initially was concerned about hygiene and preventing baldness. Like many women of the early 1900s, she had horrible scalp disease because her home lacked indoor plumbing, electricity and central heating. Rather than jump in the shower every morning or run a bath as we take for granted today, she and other Americans had to go through the painstaking process of pumping water from a well, filling a bucket, toting it to the kitchen stove, heating water on the stove, then pouring it into a large tin tub to bath. Needless to say, washing one’s hair was not as much a priority as it is today.

For more information and photos, visit the Madam Walker Family Archives. For historical information for reports or media coverage, please contact Walker’s great-granddaughter and biographer, A’Lelia Bundles, on her website.

Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower and Tetter Salve (from the Madam Walker Family Archives of A'Lelia Bundles http://www.aleliabundles.com)

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Madam Walker and Black Entrepreneurs

                                      “I got my start by giving myself a start”
     Madam Walker and Black Entrepreneurs between the Civil War & World War I

While many enterprising African American men and women created profitable outlets for their skills as trades people, artisans and service providers prior to the Civil War, the generation of African Americans born just after Emancipation used their newly found freedom to develop businesses and economic opportunities previously closed to their parents and grandparents.

Madam Walker in Indianapolis (Helene Victoria Postcard)/Madam Walker Family Archives

Among those industrious businesspeople was Sarah Breedlove, a washerwoman born in 1867 on the same Louisiana plantation where her parents had been enslaved and where General Ulysses S. Grant had staged the Siege of Vicksburg. By the time she died in May 1919 at her Irvington, New York estate, she had transformed a humble ointment that healed scalp disease into a million dollar enterprise and become known as Madam C. J. Walker.
Her journey from washerwoman to hair care industry pioneer was facilitated by early mentoring and interaction with members of the National Association of Colored Women and of the Mite Missionary Society of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis. As she developed her business, she benefited from the already established network of Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League, attending annual conventions and asserting her claim as “America’s Foremost Colored Businesswoman.”
Within a few years of founding the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, she employed thousands of sales agents and “beauty culturists,” and had begun to establish herself as a philanthropist and patron of the arts. As her wealth and influence grew, she expanded her political reach by supporting the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign, speaking out against discrimination of black soldiers during World War I and advertising heavily in the major African American newspapers.
Her efforts to link enterprise with philanthropy (through contributions to the YMCA and a number of black colleges) and political activism (through her association with activists like W. E. B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells) helped establish precedents for today’s corporate community engagement initiatives.

copyright: A’Lelia Bundles/www.aleliabundles.com
If you quote from this essay, please credit this blog and author.

For more information about Madam C. J. Walker visit our websites at

http://www.madamcjwalker.com/

www,madamwalkerfamilyarchives.wordpress.com
And read

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

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DuSable’s “Heritage of Resistance” Symposium Features Descendants of Drew, Du Bois, Walker and Wells

I’m still feeling the glow of a great weekend in Chicago with old friends and new. The “Heritage of Resistance” symposium at the DuSable Museum where Michelle Duster, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Arthur McFarlane and I talked about our ancestors (Ida B. Wells, Dr. Charles Drew, W.E.B. Du Bois and Madam C. J. Walker) was amazing on so many levels.

Arthur McFarlane, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Zada Johnson, A'Lelia Bundles and Michelle Duster at the DuSable Museum

I’m marvelling at the fewer than six degrees of separation among my fellow panelists. Madam Walker knew and interacted with Du Bois  and Wells, who were founders of the NAACP. Dr. Charles Drew was a star student at Columbia University’s medical school during the 1920s (after Walker’s death) and was well-known to the older generation like Wells and Du Bois.

We are ready to take this show on the road to universities, corporations and conferences!

For more information, please visit our websites at www.madamcjwalker.com and www.aleliabundles.com.

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