Tananarive Due: The Black Rose

The Black Rose is a story of Madam Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker, a hair culturist and one of the first Black female millionaire.

In the simplest of summaries, Sarah Breedlove was the child of slaves, a washerwoman, a cook. She’d had problems with her hair most of her life. It was dry, itchy, and wouldn’t grow. Until she started concocting her own formula in her kitchen and using what’s now referred to as a hot comb. She not only sold her hair products, but she taught other women to do hair by The Walker Method and sell her products as well. Many of those women attended her beauty school. This made her millions of dollars, in the early 1900s, and allowed other women financial freedom as well.

The book is well written, engaging, and insightful. It is a work of fiction, however, so not all of the characters and events happened as written. Tananarive Due did well with this.

Now, in my last post I mentioned not wanting to refer to Madam Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker by her more well known name Madam C.J. Walker. Here’s why: she was much more than C.J. Walker’s wife. She’d developed and started selling her hair products before she even met him. Additionally, he left her for a woman who wanted Sarah’s formula (in this book). Sarah had already built her company with his name so she felt that she was stuck with it or else she’d have to start over.

I’m not married yet, but I can imagine that once I do get married I will love being Mrs. [whatever my future husband’s last name is]. However, a woman shouldn’t ever feel stuck with her husband’s name after they have separated, especially when the separation was on traumatic terms.

Walker didn’t create Sarah. Sarah bloomed under each of her names, her strength came from each of her names, her formula was a product of each of her names. Breedlove. McWilliams. Walker. “Madam C.J. Walker” seems to lessen the importance of what she endured as Sarah Breedlove and what she created as Sarah Breedlove McWilliams. She was so much more than C.J.’s wife.

Will I stop referring to her as Madam C.J. Walker? Probably not. That’s the name people are most familiar with—I was before reading this book. Will I more frequently refer to her as Madam Sarah or by her full name? Most likely. To me, “Madam Sarah” encompasses much more of who she was, but Madam Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker covers it all (just takes much longer to get out).

In my next post, let’s go ahead and talk about Christian Science-Fiction.

Happy Reading!!