Picks and Pans Review: On Her Own Ground
by A'Lelia Bundles
Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867 in a Louisiana shack, the child of former slaves. Fifty years later she would be the nation's wealthiest African-American woman and the owner of a Westchester County, N.Y., mansion stuffed with Aubusson carpets, tapestries and a Rodin sculpture.
As a young woman, Sarah found herself losing her hair. Praying for a cure, she dreamed up the ingredients for a potion. It worked. Branding the concoction Madam C.J. Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, she hit the road.
Bundles, a former network television producer and Breedlove's great-great-granddaughter, vividly recounts the rise of the washerwoman who would light the way for other black businesswomen, bankroll YMCAs and lead an antilynching campaign all the way to the White House. If only her personal life had been as triumphant: Walker endured three failed marriages and an uneasy relationship with her spendthrift daughter. And when Walker died in 1919, her hair-care empire fizzled, and her mansion's furnishings were sold off at auction. (Scribner, $30)
Bottom Line: Inspiring potion