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30 May
2018
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “The Black Rose” by Tananarive Due

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Black RoseThe Black Rose, by Tananarive Due. is based on the truly inspirational story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, Madam C. J. Walker. She was born in 1867 on a plantation to slave parents who died from yellow fever, “Yellow Jack,” when she was about eight years old. From abject poverty, unable to read but with drive and belief in herself Sarah Breedlove overcame incredible odds. She lost her first husband who was beaten to death by a mob. Then, she worked long hours to establish a successful laundry business only to be humiliated by a white client who found flecks of blood on the white table cloth Sarah had washed. She searched for a solution to her itchy dandruff scalp, the source of the blood flecks, but the existing products did not help. Experimenting with different concoctions in her kitchen, she successfully created a new formula that worked.

After she met C. J. Walker, an advertising wiz, she established a successful hair-care products business and hair schools for women using the Walker method. She was driven by her belief that her mission was to help African Americans to improve themselves and become self-sufficient. Her passion, tenacity and dedication contributed not only to her success, but also to her denial of the risks to her health and to the estrangement of C. J. and her daughter, Lelia.

Tananarive Due has done excellent work in turning a project initially begun by Alex Haley, who became fascinated by Madam C. J. Walker and had begun research for a major novel, into a fascinating and engaging story. She has created a vivid historical narrative of Madam Walker’s life. Although fiction, the book provides an inspiring portrait of America’s first black female millionaire, philanthropist and amazing pioneer.

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