July is always a month of memories for me because my grandfather, Marion Rowland Perry, Jr. was born on July 11 and my mother, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles, on July 22. During the summer of 1982–as I was in the midst of doing research for the first of my two biographies of my great-great-grandmother, Madam C. J. Walker–I visited my grandfather for his 90th birthday in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
I shared stories about that magical visit–and my rediscovery of a steamer trunk filled with Walker family treasures–in the prologue of my book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker. My dear PaPa had saved all the items I remembered from my childhood visits to his Indianapolis apartment: Madam Walker’s mother-of-pearl opera glasses, my grandmother Mae’s wedding dress, my great-grandmother A’Lelia Walker’s 1919 marriage license (complete with pressed baby’s breath) and her gold filigree-trimmed negligee.
But perhaps my most prized find that day was the shawl Madam Walker had worn in the circa 1912 Addison Scurlock photograph of her that now has become iconic. Continue reading