Uptown Girl

The story of A’Lelia Walker, the life of Harlem in the Twenties, is chronicled in a new book.

"She was really flamboyant," says Bundles, an executive at ABC. "I don’t have any problem with her avant-garde dimension, but I’m really appalled when people misrepresent her life and distort it." Neihart admits that his small book was meant to be an appetizer, and in no way tells Walker’s full story. Bundles herself is working on a definitive biography.

In the meantime, she suggests that the curious visit the Museum of the City of New York, where curator Michael Henry Adams will open the "Harlem Lost and Found" exhibition on May 3. The show will include photos of the Walkers’ Harlem beauty shop, furniture, china, silver and linen from their home, A’Lelia’s dresses and even her monogrammed flask.

"If you take the trouble to discover the real story of A’Lelia Walker and her mother, I don’t know why you’d take the trouble to make something up," says Adams, who is skeptical about a fictionalized account of Walker’s life, though he hasn’t yet seen Neihart’s book. He’s also at work on a book about Harlem’s gay community, "Homo Harlem."

All parties agree, however, that the Walker women are nothing if not compelling. "Like Doris Duke, a comparable white rich girl, A’Lelia wasn’t what most people thought of as conventionally beautiful," says Adams, "but she had a regal quality and a sense of entitlement that made people respond to her as if she was a princess."
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