A’Lelia Bundles is a four time author, public speaker, journalist, and television producer. Her Madam CJ Walker biography On Her Own Ground is being produced for TV by Octavia Spencer and LeBron James. We talk about A’Lelia’s dynamic career, her approach to decision making, and the lessons she learned from the first self-made American woman millionaire – her great-great-grandmother, Madam CJ Walker.
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Author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles currently is at work on her fourth book, The Joy Goddess of Harlem: The Life and Times of A’Lelia Walker, a biography of her great-grandmother, to be published by Scribner. She is the historical advisor for Madam C. J. Walker Beauty Culture, a line of hair care products inspired by her great-great-grandmother and launched by Sundial Brands at Sephora in 2016.
She is a vice chair of the Columbia University board of trustees. She also serves as president and chair of the board of the National Archives Foundation, the non-profit partner, which provides funds and support for the exhibitions, programs and educational materials of the National Archives.
Her critically-acclaimed, best-selling biography, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker [Scribner/2001], was named a 2001 New York Times Notable Book, a 2002 Borders Books-Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, the 2001 Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize winner by the Association of Black Women Historians for the best book on black women’s history and a 2002 Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. The first truly comprehensive account of Ms. Bundles’s great-great-grandmother’s life, this nonfiction book is based on nearly three decades of her meticulous research in the libraries, historical societies, courthouses and private homes of more than a dozen U. S. cities.
Her young adult biography, Madam C. J. Walker: Entrepreneur [Chelsea House 1991/revised 2008] received an American Book Award. Madam Walker Theater Center: An Indianapolis Treasure, a pictorial history, was published by Arcadia Books in October 2013. As president of the Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives, she shares the history of her famous ancestors through speeches, publications, memorabilia, documents and several public initiatives.
Ms. Bundles enjoyed a 30-year career as an executive and producer in network television news. From 2000 to 2006 she was director of talent development for ABC News in Washington, D.C. and New York. She was deputy bureau chief of ABC News in Washington from 1996 to 1999, after twenty years as a network television producer with ABC and NBC News. From 1989 until 1996 she was a producer with ABC’s “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” While at NBC News from 1976 to 1989 in New York, Washington, Atlanta and Houston, her assignments for “Nightly News,” “Today” and several primetime specials and magazine broadcasts included Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, the 1984 Democratic Convention, the Atlanta youth murders and several hurricanes.
Ms. Bundles’s speeches about Madam Walker, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, the politics of hair, media and journalism have been well-received across the country by audiences at conferences, libraries and educational institutions including Harvard University, the National Archives, London City Hall, the Center on Philanthropy at IUPUI, Spelman College, Renaissance Weekend, the U. S. Postal Service, Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress and several book festivals. She has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today,” CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Fresh Air,” C-Span Book TV’s “Public Lives,” WNET/13’s “A Walk Through Harlem,” Chris Rock’s “Good Hair,” the Biography Channel and in other documentaries and national programs. Her articles have been published in the New York Times Book Review, O (The Oprah Magazine), Parade, TheRoot.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Essence, Fortune Small Business, Black Issues Book Review, the Radcliffe Quarterly, several other magazines and on her websites.
In addition to her work as a Columbia trustee, she is co-chair of the Columbia Alumni Association. She also is a member of the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library Advisory Council at Harvard, the Woodlawn Conservancy of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and the March on Washington Film Festival. She has been involved on three significant search committees that resulted in the hiring of Drew Faust as dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, Steve Coll as dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Patrick Madden as executive director of the Foundation for the National Archives. She is a board member emerita of the Madam Walker Theatre Center of Indianapolis.
Among Ms. Bundles’s journalism awards are a du Pont Gold Baton and an Emmy. She has been inducted into the Black Memorabilia Hall of Fame and the North Central High School Hall of Fame in Indianapolis. She is a recipient of a 2002 Harvard Alumni Association Award for outstanding service through alumni activities, a 2004 Radcliffe Distinguished Service Award and a 2007 Columbia University Alumni Medalist.
Ms. Bundles graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and Radcliffe College, received a masters degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an honorary doctorate from Indiana University. She is a member of the Alpha Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in October 2015. She lives in Washington, DC.
-A’Lelia’s biography on Madam CJ Walker
-How a Black woman with no education and no connections became the first self-made American woman millionaire
-Starting “late” in a career and still winning
-and much more!
STUFF MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE