Former network television news executive and producer at ABC News and NBC News A’Lelia Bundles, will deliver the annual Derrick Bell Lecture. The in-person event will take place Wednesday, February 9, 2022, at 5:30 pm at the Knight Law Center. Bundles is author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker.
Bundles’ talk is titled “Your First Duty Is to Humanity” – Echoes of Derrick Bell in Madam C. J. Walker’s Activism and Entrepreneurship. In the lecture, she will take a closer look at systemic and structural racism. Linking history to current events, Bundles will discuss how Walker’s political activism and philanthropy informed her mindset of economic independence. She will examine the relationship of Walker’s advocacy of generational wealth for her sales agents to the systemic and structural racism that Derrick Bell explored in Faces at the Bottom of the Well.
The book chronicles the life of her great-great-grandmother, a self-made millionaire. Madam Walker used her enterprise to provide economic opportunity for Black women during a period marked by racial discrimination and sexism. The New York Times Notable Book served as the inspiration for Self Made, the fictional four-part Netflix series.
“The story of Madame CJ Walker and her family, including A’Lelia Bundles, resonated deeply with me and is truly inspiring,” said Oregon Law Dean Marcilynn A. Burke. “I’m thrilled that she will be delivering the lecture and sharing Madame Walker’s journey and the impact that Black lawyers and Black-owned businesses can have in the community.”
The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Sarah Breedlove—who would become known as Madam C. J. Walker—was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. Walker built her venture the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company during the turn-of-the-twentieth century Jim Crow era, in Indianapolis.
“A’Leila Bundles reminds us that 'Our stories are our power,' said Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Vice President of Equity and Inclusion. “We are delighted to welcome this illustrious and powerful storyteller to serve as the Derrick Bell Lecturer for 2022. Her presence will provide an opportunity to learn, grow and, perhaps, to tell our own stories with more boldness and grace.”
A’Lelia Bundles is a vice-chair emerita of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees and chair emerita of the board of the National Archives Foundation. She is on the advisory boards of the March on Washington Film Festival, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, and founder of the Madam Walker Family Archives. She is at work on her fifth book The Joy Goddess of Harlem: A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance.
Derrick Bell served as the first African American dean of the School of Law from 1980 to 1985. He is considered one of the most influential voices in the foundation of Critical Race Theory, a framework that examines society and culture as they connect to race, law, and power.
Individuals must RSVP to attend the event. Registration includes livestream option.
The Derrick Bell Lecture is a collaboration between the University of Oregon School of Law and the Division of Equity Inclusion. The Lecture is a part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the DEI and the Office of the President.