The True Story of Madam C.J. Walker | TWO DOLLARS AND A DREAM

– [Narrator] The Guinness
Book of World Records lists this woman as the
first woman in history to start with nothing and earn her own
million dollar fortune. Her name was Madam C.J. Walker and this is her story. (gentle guitar music) ♪ My hair is can’t
you, don’t you ♪ ♪ You can’t call
me, don’t you try ♪ – She didn’t know anything about black is beautiful but if it came right
down to it what she did was very beautiful. ♪ Just like cockleburras ♪ Nappy that’s the reason why – At that time, Madam Walkers’ name was
known all over the south. There wasn’t a creek, a
puddle, a river or nothing that if there was
one negro there they knew about Madam Walker. ♪ Straighten it or burn it ♪ Makes no difference,
I don’t care ♪ – It was quite an
important thing to black women, particularly, and I think really in the history of the
whole women’s movement very important to all
women in the country. ♪ Got to smooth these knots ♪ Got to be an Indian queen – [Narrator] The
Nappy Headed Blues, as the song was entitled, reflected an attitude shared
by many black Americans at the turn of the century. According to the song, “my hair is can’t
you, don’t you. “You can’t call
me, don’t you try. “Nappy, that’s the reason why.” In those days, nappy hair
was considered a problem by just about everyone, except Madam C.J. Walker. She was born Sarah
Breedlove in 1867 to slaves newly freed
by the Civil War in this cabin in
Delta, Louisiana. Married at 14, widowed with a
daughter A’Lelia at 20, she had little other
than her dreams, dreams she said
of a magic formula that would solve those
nappy headed blues. For Madam C.J. Walker, these nappy heads would
become her fortune although she began with only
two dollars and a dream. ♪ Go to Madam Walker,
send a $50 bill ♪ ♪ Go to Madam Walker,
send a $50 bill ♪ ♪ Then send me some pomade ♪ Help a poor girl
out if you will ♪ – I don’t know how
I can picture to you how unruly colored
peoples’ hair was. You didn’t have to
do anything to it to make it unruly, it was just born like that. If a person had a dream, in order to make a profit it was just as much a
miracle as anything else. – Madam Walker was
working for Scholes. He was a wholesale
druggist in Denver and she was making
extra money on the side selling Madam Poro’s work. He saw it one day and
asked her what it was and she told him and he says, “I can analyze this for you “and you can leave out
some or put in more “and you can make
the money yourself.” So she got a can of it
and handed it to him and he did just that. And that is how she
really got her start with this growing of hair. – [Narrator] However Madam
Walker came upon her dream, her formula was a success. By 1910, she was
able to set up shop in this small factory
in Indianapolis. Madam Walker recommended
a system of hair care, washing and oiling the
scalp with her preparations then pressing the hair with
her newly designed hot comb. – All of us marveled
to think that she said she had a dream to
make this preparation and she made the preparation, then a dream to use a hot comb and even dreamed how to make
the comb and the product plus the procedure. It was a God send
for the colored race. – I had a beauty shop
from 1906 to 1946. I had a white shop. The bankers’ wife,
the mayors’ wife and everybody that was anybody came to my shop. Madam Walker to my
idea was something that a person could,
you’d have to honor her for what she had done. She had taught us how to
take care of our hair. Because I couldn’t
even do my own hair. I had to go to one of
Madam Walker’s graduates to have my own hair done. (upbeat jazz music) – [Narrator] There were
10 million black people living in the United
States in 1912. Madam’s dream was able to grow. She broadened her product line to include face powder,
skin brightener, soap, hair coloring, glossine,
even pomade for men. Eventually, 23 products
shared the Walker label. (upbeat jazz music) In 1915, Madam Walker
began a visual presentation in churches using these
hand-colored glass slides to show the progress
and development of the Walker company. The factory staff,
the office staff, this slide shows
F.B. Ranson Esquire, hired by Madam in 1910 as the company’s attorney
and general manager. He was to be an important
part of the Walker company until his death in 1947. The presentation
included a slide of the companys’ newly
acquired delivery truck, Madams’ Indianapolis home and even pointed
out the progress made by blacks in the country. Madam Walker traveled
tirelessly around the country. Soon Walker products were selling throughout
the United States and the world. – There was an open market in all the West Indies and the European countries because there was no
one there at that time addressing colored peoples hair. And under the hair was over in all those countries just like it was
here in America. (upbeat jazz music) – [Narrator] Madams’
determination, coupled with the companys’
innovative advertising brought quick and great rewards. – I heard that Madam Walker was making lots of money, that Madam Walker was putting a lot of personal effort in it, that she was visiting the homes and hometowns of negro women and that they were
flocking towards her. She endeavored to get
the priests on her side. Them priests would
tell the negro blacks in the towns where
they’re coming what a wonderful thing
this here black queen and them black women would
buy that stuff so fast like leaves falling off a tree. – Madam Walker was
making $1,000 a day and if it went to 900 today, tomorrow it’d be $1,100. More or less $1,000 a day and that was week in, week out for I don’t know how many years but for a long, long time. And at that time, there was
not tax taken out of it. – Madam Walker
came here one time and talked at the college and I recalled I
loved the way she, her mannerisms got me. I knew she was a great woman and we looked upon
her as a great woman and I recall after she
had been introduced and walked to the platform, she took off her
floor-length mink coat and she didn’t pull it off
until after the applause and she attempted
to lay it on a chair and it fell to the floor and someone ran to pick
it up and she said, “That’s all right,
it’s all right.” See a mink coat
falling on the floor to Madam Walker didn’t matter. ♪ Now I’m a brown gal ♪ Brown gal ♪ Making my life just a bubble ♪ Not even taking the trouble ♪ To even blow
the bubbles away ♪ – [Narrator] Madam
had an ironclad rule, none of her army of saleswomen were allowed to use
the word straightener and it never appeared
in any Walker ads or on any Walker products. But Madam Walker has been called the hair straighten queen, a hypocrite imposing
Caucasian standards of beauty on the black women of America. ♪ The heart maven’s son ♪ Has had my feelings – The popular belief
that Madam Walker only was out there
selling hair grease to straighten blacks’ hair
to make them look more white is totally false. – It was a method to beautify rather than to be thinking
turning somebody white or making them look like white. That was never
Madam Walker’s idea. – See she gave the
women pretty hair, that enhanced their
condition, their look. She wasn’t trying to
make them look white. She wasn’t trying
to make the hair look like white hair. She was trying to make the hair improve the appearance
of her people. ♪ I’m a gal ♪ Floppity gal ♪ Making my life just a bubble ♪ Not even taking the trouble ♪ To even blow bubbles away – Beautiful, just beautiful. Now when I say beautiful, I don’t mean
beautiful in features, I mean beautiful in her ways, a very interesting
woman to be around. And she had known
her shortcomings. So she surrounded herself with people of education who could be teaching
her every minute and she was very, very
quick to catch on. – [Narrator] The
years of Madam’s rise to fame and fortune
were, for the black masses, years of bitter hardship. Segregation was the law, the way of life, lynchings, a near
daily occurrence. Yet in 1915, the Walker
Company proudly announced that Madam C.J. Walker
was America’s first self-made millionairess. She also became black
America’s first philantropist. At a time when the average
income for black families was $12 a week, she gave freely of her
time, prestige, and money. $5,000 to an anti-lynching fund, $5,000 to the YMCA, $5,000 to a friend,
Mary McCloud Bafoon, to help with her school. The Walker company
declared Madam C.J. Walker the greatest
benefactress of her race. (upbeat jazz music) Madam Walker believed
in black women and continually strived
to instill in them a sense of racial
identity and pride. She saw that they
were far too reliant on men for survival. Becoming a Walker agent was a step along the
road to independence. – Well Madam Walker
from all I’ve heard was a very shrewd
business woman. She was also one of the
first women’s lib people. She very much wanted women
to become independent, to get outside of the home, and she saw in this business a chance to train women, especially black
women, of course, who at that point in time were, the only jobs were
domestic jobs. – [Narrator] Walker products, manufactured by a
predominantly female workforce, were not available in stores. In a marketing scheme later used by industry
giants like Avon, they were sold door to door by an army of trained agents. Madam offered her
agents incentives, bonuses, trips and conventions. She established a chain
of beauty colleges. Over 50,000 women
shared the Walker dream. She gave black women a sense
of pride and self-worth but just as importantly,
she gave them jobs. – All of the Madam
C.J. Walker agents had a great love for Madam. They felt she had done
something for the race of women, they felt that she had
given them an opportunity to make livings for themselves which were different
from the living that most colored women
had been able to make. They were in business
for themselves. They were doing something. They were making other
colored women look beautiful. They loved the company. They glorified
Madam C.J. Walker. ♪ Now you mighty like a rose ♪ All dressed up
in fancy clothes ♪ ♪ You’re just another brown
gal who’s all full of them ♪ ♪ Now here’s a fix
you’ll be living ♪ ♪ Yeah, you’re
just a brown gal ♪ ♪ Chocolate gal ♪ Making my life – [Narrator] A firm
believer in equality, Madam Walker employed
women as sales agents, as teachers in her schools, as beauticians in her salons, and as office and factory
workers in Indianapolis. ♪ Brown gal, chocolate gal – At that time, there wasn’t any other places
available for negro girls, except at the Indianapolis
Recorder and the Freeman. – Both were two
black negro papers. – So we were very fortunate in having employment at
the Madam Walker Company. – In the first place, it was the only big organization that negroes had. And they had a real nice
crews who worked in the back, didn’t they Esther? Esther and I worked in the same rom most
of the time, didn’t we? – Yes, we did. And then another thing too, we used to think think about that Madam Walker
made that great discovery and she was doing so
much to help our people and to help our women
to look beautiful. You know all women
like to look beautiful and always look well-groomed. And of course, we always, we started using
the products too in order that we could make
ourselves look beautiful too. ♪ Oh two by two ♪ They go marching through ♪ All the sweethearts ♪ On boole boole boole ♪ Mighty fine – She just taught black women to be proud of themselves
so that they in turn could demand things that they
couldn’t have gotten otherwise if they didn’t have a
certain amount of pride attached to them. ♪ I’d love to join at one – [Narrator] Madam’s
lifelong dream of beauty, independence and self-respect had become a reality. Black was indeed beautiful and Walker sales
continued to grow. While the firms’ headquarters remained in Indianapolis, Madam moved east to New York. She decided to
build herself a home and what a home it
turned out to be. The Villa Lewaro designed in 1917 by black
architect Vertner Tandy Sr. was the shining proof of the
Walker Companys’ success. Located in suburban
Irvington, New York, amid the estates of the
Rockefeller’s and Thomas Edison, the villa made an
overwhelming statement that achievement in this society was no longer for whites only. – I have never even since seen anything like it. Not even on the tours of some of the
castles and things that I had been to, have they been
anything like that. It was just fantastic,
it was so beautiful. – Of course, I had never
seen such furniture and tapestry and walls. – And every known
thing that you’d want was right there. It was gorgeous. – A gold piano, a
beautiful pipe organ. – And every room music
was piped into it, and that was something
we didn’t have here in this part, we didn’t know
nothing about piped in music. – It was wonderful. I think must’ve had 30 some odd to maybe near to 40 or 50 rooms. Just one room after another, just something like
out of a picture book. – Because she was a negro, they thought she
wouldn’t keep it up. But when she got
through building it, they were thrilled
with it as anybody ’cause it was gorgeous. – I was utterly
amazed at what I saw. I was amazed to see negroes had come from the cotton pads to a magnificent place
like Villa Lewaro Carson Street from
Rockefeller, ancient resident. – [Narrator] Madam Walker
built the Villa Lewaro as a symbol of the
life that was possible for the new negro. In her own words, “It is not for me, “it is for my people, “so that they can see
what can be accomplished “no matter what
their background is.” – I mean it was just something. That life was a life, it was the beautiful life
for the beautiful people. It was every bit of that. – [Narrator] Years of
hard work and dedication to her company and her people were exhausting
for Madam Walker. By 1918, her health was failing. Time once spent traveling
for the Walker company, was now spent convalescing
at the Villa Lewaro. On May 25th, 1919, Madam C.J. Walker passed away. She was 52 years old. This song was written
in her memory. Madam’s last will and testament reflected her convictions. Two-thirds of the
companys’ profits must always go to charity. The companys’ leader
must always be a woman and the bulk of her
personal fortune would be bequeathed
to her only child, 37-year-old A’Lelia. As a monument to Madams’ dream, the company erected the Walker
Building in Indianapolis. – The Walker Building was a fulfillment of
Madam C.J. Walkers’ dream. She had always wanted
to build the building and after her death, her daughter A’Lelia
and my father, were determined to
build that building. – Well, you can imagine knowing that Madam Walker
made her first products on her kitchen stove and knowing that she made it in the little factory down the
street from her home finally and then to build this
great flat iron building, a city block on one street, a block and a half on another shaped like a flat iron, you don’t know what
a flat iron is, but it was a way they
used to iron clothes, to see that building
four stories high, and the elevator, all that was new to us. (upbeat jazz music) – [Narrator] The Walker
Building opened with fanfare on the eve of the
Great Depression. The company produced this film to showcase its’
accomplishments. It replaced the
slide presentation and was shown in black
churches, meeting halls, and theaters
throughout the country. The film gave a complete picture of the Walker daily operation, the workers arrive
in the morning, the handpacking of
Walker products begins. (upbeat jazz music) An order is brought
by F.B. Ransom to the forelady of the factory. (upbeat jazz music) The order is packed
for shipping. It is checked one last
time before going out. And then it is loaded onto
the Walker Truck for delivery. The Walker Building was
more than just a factory. It served black Indianapolis
as a shopping mall. At the barber shop, the gents could get a haircut and the ladies could
get a manicure. At the tailor, the family could have their
clothes made or altered. The shoe shine parlor
was always a step ahead of the latest news. A well stocked grocery
store was available as was a grand ballroom that
doubled as a meeting hall. In the Walker Building, black residents of Indianapolis could find their own doctors,
dentists, drug store, fine restaurant, and, of
course, a beauty salon specializing in the
Walker system of beauty. For black Indianapolis, the Walker Building was a mecca, a source of jobs, a source of pleasure, a source of pride. (upbeat jazz music) – Nothing like that had
ever been in Indianapolis. No one had ever had a building. Of all the people
in Indianapolis who were supposed to
have so much money, none of them had
ever built anything, maybe a little house and two or three outhouses, that’s about all. But this was a gorgeous thing, oh it was something, and then they had a drugstore, then you had the Coffee Pot. That’s where you went
downstairs and had your coffee and you went there on
Sundays after church and any time in the week. If you couldn’t find anybody, go down to the Coffee
Pot, you’d find ’em. And that was for older people
as well as younger people. It was a lovely meeting place. – And they had this
beautiful ballroom with a crystal ball. Remember that, Esther? – Oh yes, I do because we had some
happy nights there. We tended to dances
and like that. It was very fantastic.
– And they had a beautiful pipe garden
too, in the theater. It was really the only
place that people went. – [Narrator] The
Coffee Pot was cozy, the ballroom was grand, but the showplace of
the Walker Building was its theater. Madam had sued a local
Indianapolis theater over its segregated
admissions policy. The Walker Theater would’ve
made the lady smile. (pipe music) – Now sitting in the Walker
Theater at this time, I recall the opening
date, December 1928, when I was employed
as head usher. The opening date
was a gala event. The whole town turned out. It was a night to be
remembered in Indianapolis. The theater was
definitely a showplace. It was the first
negro constructed, owned and operated new
theater for negroes in the United States. All other theaters in
Indianapolis at that time, and I suppose Indiana,
were segregated. – The place of the Walker
Building in Indianapolis, and I think in black
America, is unparalleled. The fact is that at
that point in time the blacks could not go to
the movies in Indianapolis. They could not go
to white hotels. They could not go to
dance halls, doctors. Physicians, dentists, lawyers were having problems
getting offices and the building really
fulfilled a great need. – When I first
came here in 1911, you could go to the
moving picture shows and they began to put
signs in the windows, colored trade not solicited and you could not go to
a moving picture house unless you passed. And we had the
English theater here which brought in
the legitimate shows and the negroes had to sit on the last two
rows of the balcony or up in the gallery. Orpheum Theater
was the same thing. You couldn’t go to
Loew’s Theater at all. And that was Indianapolis. I mean you couldn’t go in there unless you passed for white because there was no place
in Loew’s for negroes. You couldn’t eat in the
five and 10 cent store to sit down and eat in
the five cent store. You couldn’t get
an ice cream soda downtown in the drugstore. – [Narrator] But the Walker
Building changed that. Now, blacks in Indianapolis had their own soda fountain in the same building
with their own theater. The Walker Theater
presented vaudeville shows and with the arrival
of the talkies, the first-run films. Some were quite a change from the studios usual
mainly white productions. – Some black pictures
were shown at the theater. I believe most of
the black pictures that were produced
in the United States, those pictures were
completely black produced and acted. I feel that black
people were happy to see black people on the screen, happy to see black people
producing pictures, happy to see themselves
portrayed in motion picture. ♪ I am confessing ♪ That that trade ♪ Will I learn my lesson ♪ Oh, I’ve been
fooled for 30 days ♪ ♪ I can’t trust at the store (jazz music) – [Narrator] By the time of the Walker
Buildings’ dedication, daughter A’Lelia had
moved to New York. Little naptown could not
contain her dynamic spirit. Neither, as it turned
out, could big New York. A’Lelia Walker
was the embodiment of an unrealized fantasy
in black America. She was one of the first
blacks in the United States to inherit indisputable wealth. She followed not an
uncommon tradition among America’s
moneyed families, the first generation earns, the second generation spends. – A’Lelia, the daughter, Madam
Walker’s daughter was young. She had everything
at her fingertips. She was bound to be different. She couldn’t have been
just like Madam Walker. Madam Walker came from scratch with an idea and a
dream and all of that. She worked her way up. A’Lelia was given everything,
every opportunity. You wouldn’t expect her
to be like her mother. ♪ I’ve got the
world on a string ♪ ♪ Sitting on a rainbow ♪ Got the string
around my finger ♪ ♪ What a life ♪ What a world ♪ I’m in love – A’Lelia’s personality
was absolutely fantastic. She could make
friends with anybody. She had that happy faculty. Her mother was a little reticent but A’Lelia was just outgoing. And the minute that you saw her, you just fell in love with her. ♪ I’ve got a song that I sing ♪ I can make the rainbow ♪ Anytime I move my finger ♪ Lucky me – [Female] She was an
Amazonian type woman. – [Female] Not a fat
woman, just a large woman. – [Female] She knew how
to dress and she dressed. – [Female] She liked to
eat, she liked to party, she liked to spend money. – [Female] She
partied every night, every minute on the minute. She could do something
every minute of the day. ♪ I’ve got the
world on a string ♪ ♪ Sitting on a rainbow ♪ Got the string
around my finger ♪ ♪ What a life ♪ What a world – Well, we went to
the Cotton Club. And when they saw
A’Lelia Walker come, they let the famous A’Lelia
Walker with her party come in. (jazz music) Later on, I heard that
there wasn’t particular about serving black. But to them, A’Lelia
Walker wasn’t no black. A’Lelia Walker was
a black princess. She was a royal
black son of a gun, that’s what she was
like, she was royal with royal instinct. – [Narrator] She was married
and divorced three times. She drove in the grandest cars, drank the finest champagne. She was surrounded by the
best and the brightest of her era. In a jazz age Harlem filled with fabulous characters, A’Lelia Walker was the
most fabulous of them all. She was black societys’
reigning queen and whatever she did
was front page news. – Everything that she
did was duly noted in the black press. She was a glamorous
individual to many people. And also happened
to given the company millions of dollars
worth of publicity. A’Lelia Walker was excellent
for the Walker Company. (upbeat jazz music) – [Narrator] The Roaring
20’s smoked through Harlem. A’Lelia Walkers’ extravagance was a major part of
the Harlem mystique. It lured white opinion makers
and rich sensations seekers north of 110th Street. There they met, through her, a dynamic talented generation
of black creative artists. History calls what resulted
the Harlem Renaissance. (upbeat jazz music) ♪ Go Harlem, go Harlem,
go Harlem, go Harlem ♪ ♪ Get rhythm, get rhythm,
get rhythm, get rhythm ♪ ♪ Now laugh, laugh, laugh ♪ Laugh your cares away ♪ Bling, bling, bling ♪ Go Harlem, go Harlem,
go Harlem, go Harlem go ♪ – [Narrator] The Mexican-born
painter Miguel Covarrubias captured the spirit
of Harlem night life in these drawings. ♪ Go Harlem, go Harlem,
go Harlem, go right now ♪ (upbeat jazz music) – [Narrator] A’Lelia opened
her own little night spot. She called it The Dark Tower. It was a hangout for artists and those who respected
their talents. Langston Hughes, Countee
Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, all left a mark on this nations’
literary landscape. They were all Dark
Tower regulars and benefited from
A’Lelia Walkers’ wide social circle. – After she got the Dark Towers, then that was kind of a hangout. Everybody tried to go to
Dark Towers on Sunday night to be up there and see who’s out and see who wasn’t out and see who’s in and so forth and it was quite interesting. And it was a place where people
knew that they could meet. If they had strangers in town, they’d take them
to the Dark Towers so that they’re sure to meet all of the celebrities
of the city ’cause they would be there. And that would be
white and black. Wasn’t just only negroes. – [Narrator] Monday
through Saturday A’Lelia reigned in Harlem. Sunday though, was
not a day of rest. Her nonstop party moved
to the outskirts of town, the Villa Lewaro. Riffs from Armstrong
and Ellington gave way to the harmonies of
Schubert, Brahms and Chopin. – A’Lelia was considered the leader of negro society. And on Sunday afternoon,
she was famous for her musicals. She would pick out
the outstanding talent among our people to present to not
only our people, but to the elite
of the other race. They looked forward to coming to A’Lelia Walkers’ musicals. – [Narrator] The musicians were
black, talented and unknown. The guests were mostly white, either rich,
influential or both, such as critic Carl Van Vechten. – And the name of
Carl Van Vechten naturally that really carried all the weight in the world because he was the most
outstanding music critic in New York City and he made it his
business to be there. He was interested to see what the negroes
really had to offer in the field of art. And I think that was
her main purpose, to inform them what we are and what we do and
what we stand for. – [Narrator] But if A’Lelia had
fame, fortune and influence, love seemed destined
to allude her forever. Her marriages were stormy, her divorces bitter, and she was childless. It appeared that
the Walker dynasty would end with her until Mae Bryant came
into A’Lelia’s life. – A’Lelia Walker met Mae Bryant on one of her business
trips to Indianapolis. And Mae was working in the
factory of the Walker Company. A’Lelia first noticed her because Mae had such a
beautiful head of hair. She had very, very long hair and it came down to her waist. – Mae was darker than a woman who had hair
like Mae’s usually was. Mae had long hair. And they were trying
to sell hair growth. – And they used Mae
for ads at first, just the back of her head,
really, just the hair. So they became
friendlier and friendlier and she felt that she
could help this girl and she adopted Mae. – And they used Mae as a front by saying that their
goods grew Mae’s hair and A’Lelia used
that, as I view it, to advance their
economic progress. My impression of Mae was that she was an
adopted Cinderella. Cinderella came into great luxury and so
forth from nowhere. ♪ Heaven, heaven,
heaven, heaven ♪ ♪ I don’t need golden wings ♪ Or none of those things ♪ ‘Cause Harlem’s heaven to me – [Narrator] The
tabloids called it the million dollar wedding. They weren’t far off the mark. Mae Bryant, the shy,
young Walker heiress, became the bride
of Gordon Jackson, a doctor from Chicago. It turned out to be a match made somewhere other than heaven but the spectacle captured
the attention of the nation. – I was a flower girl in the so-called
million dollar wedding. Took place in 1923. The wedding was put
on with much fanfare. It was a huge wedding party. The Daily News had
the brides’ picture on the front page and all of the New York
papers reported this very expensive wedding. Champagne flowed and the villa
was just packed with people. – [Narrator] Mae’s fairytale
marriage had, unfortunately, a very real life
ending, divorce. Soon, however, she
would meet the man who would become
her second husband. His name was Marion Perry and they came together
at the Villa Lewaro. – Mae was there, that’s the first
time I ever met Mae. But I never knew
anything about Mae till I got up to the house. Mae being married to
this man in Chicago, I didn’t know nothing about it. And I didn’t pay no
attention particularly to this so-called
million dollar wedding. I didn’t pay no attention to it. Actually, my mother
was planning for me, she was planning for me to be about the biggest
nigger in the country but we disappointed her, me and my brother. (laughs) – [Narrator] But the
grand made joy ride that was A’Lelia Walker’s life was nearing the end of the line. By 1929, America had
hit the economic bottom and the Walker Company
could no longer support her opulent lifestyle. F.B. Ransom, still
the general manager, still in Indianapolis, had sounded early alarms. A’Lelia turned them off. – Oh she was a spendthrift. Money was only made to be spent, as far as she was concerned. And she spent it like a
drunken sailor, she spent it. She had it and she spent it. – The fortune was
definitely on the way down. In the first place, there was too much money
paid out at the top for salaries and so forth, too much money that was put out for A’Lelia Walker’s expenses. The Villa Lewaro
actually cost them $500,000 or $600,000. Together with the fact that A’Lelia was
spending so much money at the same time. – [Narrator] In 1928,
A’Lelia was forced to close the Dark Tower,
giving this notice, “Dear members and friends, “Having no talent or gift “but a love and keen
appreciation for art, “The Dark Tower was
my contribution. “But due to the slothfulness
on the part of the members “to make use of The Dark Tower, “it will be closed November 1st “as a private institution “but available to rent
for private parties, “such as luncheons, teas,
card parties and receptions. “I cannot tell you how
sorry I am for this. “Sincerely, A’Lelia Walker.” Two years later,
A’Lelia was forced to put her beloved Villa
Lewaro on the block. The furnishings were
sold at a public auction. It lured crowds of the
curious to Irvington, black and white. Most came just to gawk. The villa’s contents, purchased by the Walkers
for a small fortune, sold for almost nothing. Symbolically, the
auction was a body blow to the Walker Company’s
image and prestige. – I think A’Lelia
through the years had become quite willful and she hardly
listened to anybody. She liked to eat, she loved to eat. I can remember
coming in the house and the first thing she’d
holler and ask my mother, what are you cooking today? She loved to eat. She liked parties,
liked her friends and she just did not heed
the doctors’ warnings. – It is my personal opinion that A’Lelia knew that
her fortune was declining and that she no longer
would be in the ascendency, that she didn’t care
really if she lived or died because she was
gonna live in luxury as long as she lived and she went there
and she ate too much and drank too much and she knew it and the doctor had
told her to be careful and she didn’t be careful and I believe it
knocked A’Lelia out because A’Lelia wanted
to be knocked out. – [Narrator] In 1931,
Harlem buried A’Lelia Walker like the black queen
that she had been. Adam Clayton Pal Sr.
performed the services, Langston Hughes read the eulogy, and the four bon-bons
provided the music. – Well, I think we were the
only musical organization that was represented and we did, I think this
is one of her favorites, A’Lelia’s favorites, I’ll Be
Seeing You by Noel Coward. (piano music) – [Narrator] Thousands
came to say goodbye. To her dear friend
Langston Hughes, A’Lelia’s death marked
the end of the gay times of the new negroes in Harlem. The crash of 1929, he wrote, “Left white people with less
money to spend on themselves “and practically none
to spend on negroes. “The Depression,” Hughes added, “brought everybody
down a peg or too, “and the negroes had
but a few pegs to fall.” (piano music) – I can’t imagine a place
that was as full of life as Harlem was be in the
condition that it is now. I just can’t see how
it ever got that way. I should see because Indiana
Avenue here in Indianapolis is the same way. So I should see, but I don’t. Negroes had pride and they dressed
it and showed it and they were beautiful. They were the beautiful
people and they were that. (piano music) – It seems as though we gave up. We gave up and just, our restaurants, we
had restaurants, inns and when we could
go to their inns, then we forgot that main, in fact, I’ve had friends
to call colored restaurants that I’d go to this evening if I were taking
you all for dinner, I’d go to it. They call it the Busy Spoon now. I don’t understand us, that’s the part I
don’t understand. We don’t have enough race pride. That’s what I see. – [Narrator]
Ambition and courage, two dollars and a dream, the Walker story is
a remarkable example of American achievement. And although in time, some of Madam’s
dreams were crushed, she would not have
mourned for long. Madam C.J. Walker, a great student of experience, would have dreamed another, and she would have made it work. (gentle piano music)

100 Replies to “The True Story of Madam C.J. Walker | TWO DOLLARS AND A DREAM”

  1. She showed what Black Women could do if they were willing to work hard and share what you have with others

  2. You know what else is really amazing…how all these women interviewed still looks good from the 20s and 30s just from their natural beauty. ???

  3. The young female of today wouldn't understand before melanin start to pop, black was always meant and made to be beautiful. Black women then inspired natural beauty, black women now just get influenced by the millennium.

  4. Tyler Perry should ask her great granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles for permission to recreate the movie and put it out on his movie production company he will tell the madam cj walker story correctly.

  5. there is no mention of Annie Turnbo Malone who was the owner of Poro hair proudcts and Madam CJ Walker's boss. She is the 1st black millionaire not CJ Walker. She has a beauty school in St Louis and buried in Chicago in the same cemtery as Emitt Till

  6. They’re brainwashed straightening the hair wasn’t to look white but to look prettier lmao Semantics products made their hair look like white peoples hair but they wasn’t trying to look white ?

  7. I know whenever there is a movie or series, the film industry will always over embellish or outright lie about events. They do it for so-call entertainment purposes, which is why any bio-movie cannot be relied upon as 100% factual. If you want facts, you have to research historical info and documents yourself. This historical film is a good start.

  8. Why they keep sayin she was first black female millionaire Annie Malone was first thats where she got the blueprint. CJ walker was a student when Annie was making Schools n her business of black beauty.

  9. Watching how this woman became a millionaire at such a awful time for blacks is amazing!! Plus she gave others a opportunity to make something of themselves and have something to be proud of, whether it was them feeling beautiful or being proud to make money outside of cleaning someone’s home.. women today could learn a few things from Madam CJ Walker and the other elder ladies bcs today nobody wants to see others accomplish anything, to worried about the next person becoming more successful! I bet the next time I get discouraged with getting my lash business off the ground, I’ll stop and think how hard it was for the people that came before me???

  10. What killed a lot of the Black businesses back then was the INTEGRATION mindset of the Civil Rights era. A lot of Black people abandoned their businesses just for an opportunity to have a seat at the White man's table. Big mistake.

  11. Marion Perry, Walker Company Trustee, seems to know the raw truth he finally enjoyed revealing. I'm sure its more

  12. Interesting documentary. While it celebrates Madame's life and entrepreneurial spirit, the documentary's tone lacks critical analysis, namely a deeper interrogation of White Supremacist government policies that kept Blacks excluded for decades, and the limitations of Black Capitalism / entrepreneurialism, why Walker was almost an anomaly rather than the Norm. The documentary downplays how A'Lelia blew her mother's legacy on excess and consumption and she really wasn't interested in minding the family business. It was the Roaring 20s, after all.

    I maybe criticised here, but I remain unsure if Madame Walker's cosmetic legacy really challenged and intervened on White supremacist notions of Black beauty or just Re-inscribed them. In the 21st century, I find it awful that Black women and men, havent reconciled these notions of light skin and straight hair as beautiful and closer to Whiteness. It remains problematic that Sistah women have to indulge this beauty game for the sake of career chances and the marriage market.

  13. Absolutely Beautiful ‼❤❤ I loved all 51 mins of this documentary‼ Thank you for all of the interviews and clips from back then. Fascinating and inspiring ‼ Madam CJ Walker was such and incredible woman and she will always be reminded ❤❤? by her passion and drive alone ‼ It was destined ??✨

  14. This film is a perfect example of why it is important to produce documentary films about historical figures before Hollywood can get their hands on the story. It's important for people to know that true facts about a subject or person before creative control sets in and destroys the truth. Thanks for sharing this archival classic Stanley.

  15. Started the Netflix series and couldn’t finish it, I do NOT like the lies about the brilliant Annie Malone!

  16. I’m trying to figure out why in this day and age am I just hearing about this woman for the first time in my life? I’ve never heard about her throughout all the black history textbooks or black history months from grades school and throughout college. But yet she was the number one, first self made millionaire woman in the hair industry for Negroes?! That’s absurd! Well, I’m glad I know of her now. Thank you for your dream and thank you for this video. She is greatly appreciated and saluted for this!!! #saynotonetflix??‍♀️

  17. They never do they white wash our history…. we have alot of greats products that people still use today…

  18. This story is lacking and not telling the whole truth, so they lived in peace and were not bothered by Jealous whites?

  19. My mom took my brother and I to the Walker Theater to see the original Godzilla movie starring Raymond Burr I can still smell the popcorn and the hotdogs roasting on the rotisserie in the beautiful grand lobby and nobody but black peoples running things from top to bottom. Man it was really beautiful!

  20. So y'all are ok with Walker stealing Malones idea and making it her own?
    That in my book is a two facing no good snake! If someone had done that with your creation and become worldwide famous and rich, what would you think of that said person?

  21. All these years I grew up thinking Madame Walker invented the hot comb & its 2020 & I'm jus discovering that wasnt true! A truly intelligent woman ahead of her time!

  22. Excellent! Mr. Perry was indeed
    hilarious…"my mama planed on
    me being the biggest nigga in the

  23. Wow she put all of that in the Walker building? A theater a restaurant a tailor shoe shine set up what didnt she have in her mind let alone in her building!? She really was a out the box thinker

  24. I was done with Netflix after their gay version of Christ blasphemous movies so I had no intention to renew to see their version of her story. I know I was blessed to see it here and the comments confirmed it! Well done

  25. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I have always looked up to the inventions and accomplishments of Madam CJ Walker. She left an exceptional legacy and this confirms how nothing is unattainable. I’m thankful and proud to be a melanin woman

  26. This pissed me off this so called documentary is filled with self hating blk ppl blk ppl don't have nappy hair that's what the wht man told us and we still till this day believe and say that our hair is curly when you comb blk ppls hair and look at it it's curled like a coil stop saying nappy be proud of your blk hair we are the original hue-mans the creator don't make mistakes say it loud im BLACK AND I'M PROUD

  27. It was hard for her to be the successful woman that she was because of the racism back then white people didn't even want to carry products that cater to black people in their stores because black people was not allowed in their stores so her stuff did not sell in stores which never occurred to me she had to hire people to go door-to-door in black communities selling her product like Avon did looking at the history years ago really upsets me really disgust me that America was like this and it really makes me sick further further back into slavery this woman died young because she had struggled all her life just to live just to be a black person Hardships was so bad here in America that black people develop high blood pressure from so much stress and just passed down to our children and I think that's why we have a history of high blood pressure to this day because of what happened to our ancestors she was truly a great woman I wish they could have captured her on film talking I would love to hear the sound of her voice

  28. I don’t understand WHY Netflix had to sensationalize Mme. Walker’s story when there’s so much factual information available; which is just as interesting and exciting! Research shows that Mme. Walker was not the first black millionaire. She was either the second or third. The lady in the film, who was INACCURATELY portrayed as her rival, was either the first or second. However, Mme. Walker did modernize, and was the first to patent, the type hot comb that is popular today. There is so much that she, and other women of color, did for the culture. Netflix should be ashamed of itself for twisting her story into a colorist struggle. In reality both these women, and many others, are a credit to our race. They provided education and employment opportunities for people of color in general. PLEASE, if you watch the Netflix series (I only watched the first episode) make sure to do your own research after and learn the truth. The title of the series warns you that it’s not all completely true. We should take that warning as an incentive to further educate ourselves.

  29. Thank God her real life was documented by people who lived it with her. I didn’t like the Netflix movie based loosely on her life.

  30. Oh what a beautiful documentary that reminds us as black people that we come from elegance and power. They dont depict this because they don't want us to unite like we once did and own our own business like we once did. We were wall street before wall street and Madam CJ Walker knew it

  31. I am so amazed at this…this is truly an extension of the Netflix series of Madam C.J. Walker's life…I thank you so for this eye opening experience…

  32. I swear some ppl will find anything to complain about & or judge!! This woman was more about HEALTHY HAIR THAN ABOUT STRAIGHTENING IT!! SHE DIDN'T INVENT THE STRAIGHTENING COMB YOU F IDIOT'S!! SHE GAVE US A CHOICE! Everything we do is/was not always about the appeasement of white folks, hence why she didn't have a lighter hued woman on her products! If while watching this all you got from it that she was a "sell out" because she made black women want to look & feel more beautiful/empowered & not like we just stepped off of the plantation, that has more to do with you hating yourself than what she did or didn't do for our ppl!!

  33. Now we have the confirmation as to who started the beauty trade and hospitality. She was a very strong and powerful woman-very inspiring. If only so many other so called black women today was as nice to each other in the beauty field and stop trying to tare each other down in jealousy (It happens). You can't trust many black hairdressers today they don't want to look after your hair now they over process it and I often wondered how women of this century had good looking hair.
    Walker sounds amazing she must have been truly anointed where she got her vision!

  34. There are a few reasons why Annie Malone gets omitted in these accounts of Walker. To make Walker a bigger deal, you can't acknowledge that Malone was already doing for years everything that Walker would eventually do, or that Walker worked for Malone for years and just copied Malone's business model after observing it, or that Walker covertly stole Malone's hair treatment formula, using what would be described as industrial espionage tactics today. Mention these things, and much of the shine immediately comes off of Walker, but she is still obviously a great success story.

  35. I found this video to be very informative, however, at the 14:00 mark what is the meaning of calling Mary McCloud Bethune….Bafoon. Really?

  36. As a black man, I'm not pleased with the idea that our nappy hair is ugly and unmanageable. After all, our God made it that way, as his hair is nappy and wooly. The "only" credit I could give this sister is she was a pioneer in a line of beauty supplies and hair processing. Skin whitening is just shameful in and of itself. I appreciate the fact that "she" profited from her hard work and diligence. Kudos. She was her own boss.

  37. because of the Netflix film I looked into this more and am glad I did, wanting beautiful hair and to keep up with the styles of the time is not a white or black thing but a female thing. Kudos to C J Walker for her determination and shame on America for their oppression of a race


  39. My ancestors didn't call their hair nappy,that was the pale faces, also we were using buffalo grease n limes n tings..we were already braiding n doing many styles b4 this women was making our ppl think our hair was unruly, our hair the best,y u think pale faces copy

  40. Does anyone know how Fairy Mae Bryant (Mae Walker) died. It's known that she died in 1945, but what was the cause?

  41. Two dollars and a dream, I’ve always been fascinated with Madam CJ Walker’s life story! Thank you to all that contributed on her behalf.

  42. All honor and thanksgiving to the legendary Queen, Madam CJ Walker. Thank you for this wonderful documentary about the brilliant entrepreneur and uplifter of her people, Madam CJ Walker! May her memory live on~

  43. Yes she started waking up something in the black community…then there was black wall street many many successful black people we had our own everything growing fast..we didn't have to depend on white people for anything..then they got scared…jealous…greedy…more hateful ect..and burned it down and black people got more scared and didn't do again..if we realize the power we have if we stick together and build…we would rule the earth…like we were suppose to.

  44. Incredible story! I know I'm in the minority for thinking this but, knowing what we know now (…about the negative aspects hair straightening), she actually did Black women no favors. I wonder how the "Naturalistas" feel about her innovation. I'll never begrudge an entrepreneurial spirit; it certainly is true that one's weakness is the start of another's riches. But, oh how I wish my mother (….and her mother…and her mother….and her mother) had the strength to resist societal pressure, goading her to straighten my tresses.

  45. Her daughters husbands seemed like alcoholics smh she lost her DARK ROOM AKA BAR AKA HOTEL AKA BLACK FOLKS EMBASSY SMH RIP to the QUEENS ?? ??

  46. Now this should of been on Netflix instead of that crap they showed. If the blacks of then can see us now twerking and reality shows calling each other bit*hes and hoes and N word they'd be ashamed. I'm so proud of the women that came before me. Thank you for posting this video

  47. Netflix movies focused on some bullshit? A whole building, Walker Theatre? Why you leave that out NETFLIX?

  48. At the end of the day this shit dont mean nothing. White people own her legacy now. Same ole story. Cant be happy over old shit we dont even own anymore

  49. I would like to thank whoever's responsible for this true telling of one of our greatest heroines of black leadership.

  50. Im confused because this documentary indicates that Madam Walker invented the hot comb but when I visited the Smithsonian AAC&HM in DC they say she didnt. She was credited for her products?

  51. I love the photos and what she accomplished, but you can take a black woman and shave all her hair off and she will still be the most beautiful creature God ever made!

  52. So this documentary also completely ignores how Annie Malone gave her her start in St.Louis, trained her and was actually the 1st Black woman millionaire …

  53. Kasi Lemmons should watch this documentary and then stop posing as a producer. That Netflix garbage she made should be banned.

  54. To be someone who remembers the cotton fields yet dreams AND achieves so much is phenomenal. No self help books, no podcasts, no google just grit, hard work, and God. Wow. I’m blown away. I’ve always heard of this story but I did not KNOW this story.

  55. So this is the start of what we got going on today. She may have meant well but if you don't learn how to maintain your natural hair then, of course, it would be hard to do. She helped get black women to love themselves because they didn't look like themselves. This still shows today. How many black women go out in the natural. Some I know won't even touch the front door without a wig and make up. When I see a black woman natural I'm delighted because the rest of y'all looking like trans. (No offense but I can't tell the difference anymore)
    Keep a clean scalp and moisturize her hair thoroughly as often as it needs. Drink more water and eat healthier….this This has been proven to help maintain and grow the hair. Save your shed hair and use that to apply tracks or make a wig out of at least it's yours…ijs. Braid your hair or find a none stressful style. We will be ok.

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