Tag: Madam C.J. Walker

Shea Moisture Founder Richelieu Dennis to Transform Madam C.J. Walker’s Estate into Training Center for Black Women Entrepreneurs

Richelieu Dennis; Villa Lewaro Estate (Photos via becauseofthemwecan.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

In this 100th year anniversary of its completion, the historic Villa Lewaro estate of the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer, Madam C.J. Walker, has been purchased.

The New Voices Foundation, which helps women of color entrepreneurs achieve their vision through innovative leadership initiatives, will spearhead the stabilization of the structure and planning for future uses. The acquisition was facilitated by the Dennis Family, including entrepreneur, investor, and social impact innovator Richelieu Dennis, who once owned Shea Moisture and currently owns Essence Magazine.

The 28,000 square foot property is a historic residence that embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

“In the one hundred years since Madam Walker built her majestic home, Villa Lewaro, it has served as a landmark both to her own success and to her endeavor to create a space dedicated to the achievement and empowerment of African Americans,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance, Madam Walker’s Villa Lewaro estate, named after her daughter (A’LElia WAlker RObinson), was once a social and cultural gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.

The home, which Madam Walker called her “dream of dreams,” was designed and completed 100-years ago by the first licensed Black architect in the state of New York and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Vertner Tandy.

Walker was the first person of color to own property in Irvington, close to Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site. During the time it was built, Villa Lewaro was located on what was referred to as Millionaire’s Row and in an area that was also home to Rockefellers and Astors. Purchased in 1993, for the last 25 years Villa Lewaro served as the family home of Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. and his wife Helena.

With a long admiration of Madam C.J. Walker, the Dennis family first reignited her cultural, entrepreneurial and hair care legacy through the acquisition of the Madam C.J. Walker brand in 2013 – when conversations to acquire Villa Lewaro also first began – and the brand’s subsequent relaunch on retail shelves in 2016 at Sephora.

“To be able to steward something so rich in our culture, history, legacy and achievement through the New Voices Foundation and guide it into its next phase of impact and inspiration is an incredible honor that my family and I welcome with tremendous responsibility and humility,” said Dennis. “When we relaunched the Madam C.J. Walker brand two and half years ago, our goal was to give the brand back to our community and elevate it in the iconic way deserving of such a phenomenal woman. Today, we have a similar focus with Villa Lewaro as its significance is much greater than just a house or property or historic landmark. It is a place where – against all odds – dreams were formed, visions were realized and entrepreneurs were born, and we look forward to returning its use to support that mission.”

Dennis continued, “Squarely aligned with the mission of the New Voices Foundation, we are excited to announce that the vision for future use of the property includes utilizing Villa Lewaro as both a physical and virtual destination where women of color entrepreneurs will come for curriculum-based learning and other resources aimed at helping them build, grow and expand their businesses. When people think of entrepreneurship services for women of color, we want them to think of the New Voices Foundation and Villa Lewaro.”

Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer, as well as brand historian, A’Lelia Bundles, added, “No one at the time believed that a Black woman could afford such a place. So, I can think of no better way to celebrate Villa Lewaro’s 100th anniversary than the vision of the New Voices Foundation and the Dennis family for this historic treasure as a place to inspire today’s entrepreneurs, tomorrow’s leaders and our entire community. Richelieu’s own success story – from a humble family recipe to an international enterprise with an economic empowerment mission – very much mirrors Madam Walker’s journey of empowering and uplifting women. Just as Madam Walker aided in the preservation of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s Washington, DC home, the Dennis family continues this tradition of preserving historic sites that raise awareness about the contributions people of color have made to the American narrative.”

The National Trust holds a perpetual preservation easement on Villa Lewaro that ensures the property’s historic character will be preserved. This easement was jointly supported by the Dennis and the Doley families. The home was named a National Treasure by the National Trust in 2014 and is part of a growing portfolio of African American historic sites protected through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, an initiative designed to raise the profile of African American sites of achievement, activism, architecture, and community.

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Limited Series About Madam C.J. Walker Lands at Netflix

Octavia Spencer/LeBron James (photo via variety.com)

by Debra Birnbaum via Variety.com

It’s official: Octavia Spencer and LeBron James’ limited series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker has landed at Netflix. The streaming outlet made the announcement at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session Sunday.

The project is executive produced by Spencer and James. Spencer will star in the eight-episode series, which is based on the book “On Our Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant.

The series will recount the untold story of how Walker, a black hair care pioneer and mogul, overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. Everything changed, though, following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women.

“Black Nativity” directory Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce, and Nicole Asher will write. Janine Sherman Barrois and Elle Johnson will also serve as executive producers, along with SpringHill’s Maverick Carter, and Zero Gravity’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder.

The Holders optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016, and Spencer pursued the part aggressively once she learned of it. With the Oscar winner attached, William Morris Endeavor Agency pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into prestige TV.

“It’s so exciting for all of us to keep building SpringHill, see it mature, and continue to find its voice. We are really focused on growing with authenticity and substance,” Carter said. “For us, this is totally about great stories and great partners. Partnering with Octavia to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker is the ideal first project for SpringHill to take an important step into scripted drama.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/octavia-spencer-lebron-james-madam-cj-walker-netflix-limited-series-1202889368/

Madam C.J. Walker’s “Villa Lewaro” Estate in New York Protected as National Treasure with Preservation Easement

Madame CJ Walker; Villa Lewaro, exterior and interior (photos: David Bohl; Walker Family Archives)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

On the heels of launching the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African-American history, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a preservation easement on Madam C.J. Walker’s estate, Villa Lewaro. A powerful preservation tool, the easement prevents current and future owners from making adverse changes to or demolishing the estate’s historic, cultural and architectural features.

Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867–May 25, 1919), America’s first self-made female millionaire, commissioned Villa Lewaro, her “Dream of Dreams,” at the height of her wealth and prominence as inventor and entrepreneur of haircare products for African-American women. Constructed in 1918, alongside the Hudson River in Irvington, New York, Madam Walker’s elegant residence was built to inspire African-Americans to reach their highest potential.

Designed by Vertner Tandy—the first African-American registered architect in the state of New York and one of the seven founders of  Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—the 34-room mansion served as the intellectual gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

“On the 150th anniversary of her birth, we are delighted to have played a lead role in the lasting protection of Madam C.J. Walker’s tangible legacy,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust’s African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “The legal protection of irreplaceable historic sites like Villa Lewaro, one of the most significant places in women’s history, is essential in telling the full American story and inspiring future generations.”

Since designating the site as a National Treasure in 2014, the National Trust has worked with Villa Lewaro’s current owners and exceptional stewards, Ambassador and Mrs. Harold E. Doley, Jr., to recognize its architectural and historical significance and secure long-term protections before the property changes hands. The easement marks a successful culmination of those efforts.

Villa Lewaro stands as a living monument to Madam Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit and remains central to understanding her unprecedented achievement during an era when neither women nor African Americans were considered full citizens. Soon to be portrayed by award-winning actress Octavia Spencer in a series produced by LeBron James, Madam Walker’s story of persistence continues to inspire a growing number of African-American women taking leadership roles in business, politics, philanthropy, and other industries.

To learn more about the National Trust’s commitment to expand America’s view of history and bring attention to centuries of African-American activism and achievement, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/african-american-cultural-heritage

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on Limited TV Series About Madam CJ Walker

LeBron James / Octavia Spencer (photos via variety.com)

by Justin Kroll via variety.com

NBA superstar LeBron James is continuing to make moves off the court. James’ production company, SpringHill Entertainment, is adding the first scripted drama to its growing slate. The project also boasts Oscar-winning talent: Octavia Spencer.

Spencer is attached to star in the limited series about entrepreneur and social activist Madam C.J. Walker’s life, with James executive producing along with his company’s co-founder, Maverick Carter. Sources tell Variety that Netflix is interested in the series and is the likely destination. The steaming service had no comment on their involvement in the project.

Nicole Asher is on board to write and co-exec produce and “Black Nativity” helmer Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce. The series is based on the book “On Her Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant on the series.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. However, everything changed following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women. She counted W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington among her friends.

Zero Gravity Management’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016. Spencer got wind of the project and aggressively pursued the part. Once word spread that Spencer was attached, WME, who reps both Spencer and James, pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into the prestige genre.

SpringHill president Jamal Henderson brought the project to Carter’s attention and the two moved quickly to land the property. With Nicole Asher set to write, Spencer starring, and James and Springhill on board as producers, the package was presented to potential buyers, with Netflix acting fast and the favorite to land the series. “I am really proud of this project and that SpringHill will be partnering with Octavia to tell this important story,” James said. “Every American should all know the story of Madam C.J. Walker. She was an innovator, entrepreneur, social activist, and total game changer whose story has been left out of the history books. I hope this project lives up to her legacy with a story that will educate and inspire.”

To read full article, go to: Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on TV Series About Madam CJ Walker | Variety

Academy Award-Winner Octavia Spencer Produce and Star in Madam C.J. Walker Biopic

Octavia Spencer (photo via
Octavia Spencer (photo via Simon & Schuster)

article by MaryAnn Yin via adweek.com

Zero Gravity Management has optioned A’Lelia Bundles’ 2001 nonfiction book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. Bundles is actually the great great granddaughter of Walker.

According to DeadlineOctavia Spencer intends to star and produce a limited series based on Bundles’ biography. Nicole Asher will write the script. Kasi Lemmons has agreed to serve as the director.

Here’s more from The New York Times: “Acutely aware of the lack of diversity in Hollywood on both sides of the camera, Ms. Spencer is determined to make a correction. She has begun optioning books, including one about Madam C. J. Walker, considered the first self-made African-American female millionaire.” (via Shadow and Act)

Six Black Inventors Who Changed the World

Thanks to African-American inventors and innovators our lives are easier, more convenient and more prosperous in many ways.  Although we rarely hear about these sharp, groundbreaking pioneers from the past and present, black innovators have contributed in every field—from mechanics to cosmetics to consumer goods to technology. This Black History Month we pause to acknowledge a few.

While working at IBM, Mark Dean invented the first modern peripherals that enabled us to plug speakers, disk drives, scanners and printers into computers. Dean holds three of IBMs original nine PC patents.

At just 27 years old, chemist Dennis Weatherby invented automatic dishwasher detergent while working at Proctor & Gamble in 1987.  His invention now sells under the trade name “Cascade” and is the basic formula for all of today’s lemon-scented cleaning products with bleach.

If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “the real McCoy” originated look to innovator Elijah McCoy.  His parents escaped slavery in the mid- 1800s by way of the Underground Railroad and moved to Canada.  They sent him to Scotland to be educated. Upon completing his studies, McCoy moved to the United States for work but discrimination prevented him from finding employment as a professional engineer. So he went to work on the railroad as an oilman responsible for keeping the moving parts of the trains lubricated for locomotion. He found that walking along the trains oiling the axles and bearings was inefficient so he created an oil lubricating cup that automatically dripped oil onto the moving parts.  His invention allowed trains to travel long distances continuously without the need to stop for oiling.  After he received a patent for his invention there were many engineers who imitated his work.  But informed train operators knew his invention was superior and when they needed to order an automatic oil cup they would ask for “the real McCoy.” His invention became standard equipment on most locomotives and heavy machinery. McCoy went on to patent more than 50 inventions.

Sarah Goode was born into slavery, but went on to become the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. patent, issued on July 14, 1885 for a folding cabinet bed. The entrepreneur, who was freed after the Civil War, invented the bed for people who lived in small apartments near her Chicago home, and sold her creation at a furniture store she owned there.

Thomas Jennings, the first African-American to receive a U.S. patent, invented the dry-cleaning process.  He operated a dry-cleaning business in New York City and is said to have donated most of his business profits to the movement to abolish slavery.

Madam C.J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove) was born to parents who had gained their freedom from slavery only to pass away a short while later from a deadly fever. Sarah became an orphan at 7 years of age and by 20 years of age she was a widow and single mother.  Having struggled with dry scalp and hair, and seeking a better life for herself and her daughter, she invented hair care products and sold them to other African-American women.  Eventually she was able to create a thriving national corporation that employed 3,000 or more people — primarily African-American women whom she taught the principles of entrepreneurship and marketing so they too could become financially stable.  Her company went on to develop other hair and beauty products and equipment that were used by white women as well.

Madam Walker became so wealthy that some of the world’s richest men in history were her neighbors.  Among them was oil billionaire (in today’s dollars), industrialist, and Spelman benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, who invested so substantially in the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary three years after it was established that its name was changed to Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College) in honor of his wife, Laura Spelman.

It is inspiring to consider such richness and ingenuity among African-Americans.  These few examples of many hundreds of black innovators and trendsetters are a clear demonstration that all of us are capable of making incredible contributions that carry our country, communities, families and fortunes forward.

article by Felicia Joy via blackenterprise.com