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The Problem With “The Facts About Madam C.J. Walker And Annie Malone” And The Problem With “Self Made” Netflix (1191 hits)

Let me first start with saying this to any Madam C.J. Walker admirers, and to those who maybe heard of Annie Malone (many have not), this is not an attempt to be petty, or report anything against Walker.

This is a rebuttal to the essay that was written by Madam C.J. Walker’s great, great granddaughter titled, “The Facts about Madam C.J. Walker and Annie Malone”.

When one considers the oppressive times that Madam C.J. Walker and African Americans lived under in this country, and that she was a child of slaves, and a woman when women had very little to no rights, what she accomplished from her professional start in the haircare and beauty products business in 1906 to her death in 1919, can only be described as “astonishing”. And to refer to Madam Walker’s great, great grand-daughter’s own views about Walker’s legacy, her philanthropy and training for women to learn a skill that allowed them the ability to provide quality of life for their families, was even more astonishing.

For those who plan to watch the Netflix series, “Self Made” that premiered March 20, 2020, I will allude to a few scenes in the series, so this is a spoiler alert to probably wait to read this article.

Just as Walker gave back, so too was she given this opportunity to do better for herself and for her daughter. To go from being a laundress, making hardly any money at all, to becoming one of the wealthiest women in America. She owed that to Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, who Walker was treated by for her scalp condition that was causing her hair to fall out, and who she learned the haircare business from.

This is significant because most of us have been under the belief that Madam C.J. Walker is the “mother” of the haircare industry and the first “self-made” African-American millionairess. This has angered many who know of Annie Malone’s impact and know that Walker was not the first.

There were other haircare entrepreneurs who helped shape what is now a multi-billion dollar industry that should be mentioned in this context. Women like, Sarah Spencer Washington and Madam N.A. Franklin, for example. If you look at the chronological order of these ladies professionally, Annie Malone would come first.

The other significant matter of note that cannot be simply dismissed, is that the relationship between Walker and Malone was a profound one for Walker (then Sarah Breedlove), who came to St. Louis in the early 1900’s to live with her brothers, who were both Barbers (and there is a belief that one, or both, were graduates of Annie’s Poro College), but who certainly knew Annie and introduced Breedlove to Malone.

Sarah Breedlove, being ten years older than Malone, would be very impressed with Annie, because Malone was already a successful business woman in 1902 when they met and refined in the ways Walker wanted for herself and her daughter.

It could be argued that Malone was one of the most significant women in Sarah Breedlove’s life, next to her daughter, A’Lelia Walker. So, for me, this outright suppressing of Annie Malone’s name or mentioning her as a footnote, diminishes the impact and importance she was to Sarah Breedlove, who would go on to great success on her own as Madam C.J. Walker.

And, the impact was also felt by Madam Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia Walker, who inherited the Walker empire along with longtime Walker attorney, Ransom, so much so, that when the Walker Theater (now the Walker Legacy Center) was built in 1927 in Indianapolis, IN, the exterior structure of the building was a near design replica of the Poro College building in St. Louis that was built and opened in 1918 by Malone. That building has since been demolished, but was considered a state of the art structure for its time.

Every service to patrons and students, from education, product development, social gatherings and meetings, to theater performances that Annie instituted in the Poro College headquarters, was emulated at the Walker Theater.

The ‘Self Made’ Netflix series (which premiered on March 20, 2020), uses the disclaimer in it’s title that the series is “based on true events” about the life of Madam C.J. Walker, which gives the producers artistic license to create fictional situations and “composite” characters to further their story arc. And this is exactly what they have done.

In the Netflix series, a “composite” character named Addie Monroe (note the initials, A.M.) was created to replace Annie Malone in the series, and they “totally” made Addie Monroe a cartoonish villainess that stalked Madam Walker once Walker broke ties to her. Whether this was intentional or not, they vilified Annie Malone.

In “The Facts about Madam C.J. Walker and Annie Malone”, the notion that this long time debate as to who was the first millionairess has become “petty, contrived and counterproductive” is disingenuous as this statement comes from the very person that, if she did not coin this, has supported the reporting of Walker as being the first, and who now acknowledges Malone as an “equal” to Walker, as suggested in her very recent essay we are discussing. I agree that it is counterproductive to a 40 year agenda to supplant in the minds, of even scholars, that Madam Walker was thee pioneer of the haircare industry. Walker herself refused to acknowledge Annie Malone’s impact on her life.

During the 1913 (1912 is the year cited in “The Facts about Madam C.J. Walker and Annie Malone”) National Negro Business League conference in Philadelphia, a Who’s Who of successful African American entrepreneurs, civic and religious leaders, annual national convention for which Madam C.J. Walker was to speak, she spoke of her success in the haircare business and her beginnings without acknowledging Annie Malone who was sitting there amongst the esteem audience. It was reported that Annie, without a show of anger or contempt, got up and left the convention hall while Madam Walker was speaking. Her entourage followed her out of the room, including James Breedlove’s wife, Hattie Breedlove. (Again, James Breedlove was one of the brothers Madam C.J. Walker had come to live with in St. Louis, and who introduced the two ladies).

NOTE: Please Go To My Blog On HubPages To Finish Reading This Article At:


Posted By: Robert Walker
Sunday, March 22nd 2020 at 9:32AM
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