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. A’Lelia Walker, who held a private ceremony for her mother at Woodlawn on June 3, 1919, was herself buried there in August 1931.
Among the famous Americans also buried at Woodlawn are Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, singers Florence Mills and Celia Cruz, financier Jay Gould, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, vaudevillian Bert Williams, author Herman Melville, composer Irving Berlin, publisher Joseph Pulitzer and dozens of other jazz greats and entertainers.
A’Lelia Bundles, Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer, serves on the board of the Friends of Woodlawn Cemetery and is owner of the lot where the Walker women are buried. She is the author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.
From Woodlawn’s news release: “Woodlawn, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary beginning next year, is one of the nation’s finest examples of a 19th-century garden cemetery. It is home to the largest and most distinguished collection of historic mausoleums in the nation, and is a still active cemetery. The designation recognizes its outstanding landscape design and collection of art and architecture. The designation also recognizes Woodlawn’s significant role in memorializing and celebrating prominent Americans, who shaped American history and culture. Since Woodlawn’s founding in 1863, 310,000 people—from Gilded Age magnates to pioneers for women’s rights to Harlem Renaissance writers and musicians, as well as artists, athletes, and ordinary citizens— have been interred on the cemetery’s 400 acres.”
For more information visit our Facebook pages: Madam Walker and A’Lelia Walker Family Archives and A’Lelia Bundles. For historical research, contact A’Lelia Bundles, Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer.