As they watched construction of the block-long flatiron building brick by brick throughout 1927, African American residents of Indianapolis could scarcely contain their pride. This new headquarters of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, with its terra-cotta trimmed facade, was to be more than corporate offices and a factory for what then was one of America’s most successful black businesses. In fact, it was designed as “a city within a city,” with an African Art Deco theater, ballroom, restaurant, drugstore, beauty salon, beauty school, and medical offices. Generations of African American families met for Sunday dinner at the Coffee Pot, enjoyed first-run movies and live performances in the Walker Theatre, and hosted dances in the Casino. Today, this National Historic Landmark is an arts center anchoring the Indiana Avenue Cultural District.
Author Bio: A’Lelia Bundles is an author, Emmy award–winning producer, and former ABC News executive. On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, her biography of her great-great-grandmother, was named a New York Times Notable Book. She is chairman of the board of the Foundation for the National Archives, a Columbia University trustee, and president of the Madam Walker Family Archives.
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