The Madam Museum honors African-American pioneer - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

The Madam Museum honors African-American pioneer

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ATLANTA -

Auburn Avenue is home to historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace, and his tomb. But, tucked away just off the avenue is a small space that pays tribute to a unique aspect of African-American heritage – The Madam Museum.

It's the personal collection of Ricci Deforest, and he has turned it into a place celebrating an African-American pioneer of hair care -- Madam C. J. Walker.

"It's almost like the spirits just dictated, that you do something other than just crank out hair," said Deforest.
    
Those spirits spoke on an ordinary day. He says was cruising through Atlanta's Auburn district when suddenly a name on a window stopped him like a record scratch: Madam C. J. Walker Beauty Shoppe.

She was a pioneer in African-American beauty and hair care, and self-made millionaire in the early 1900s. Deforest says the building was an original beauty shop owned by a Walker agent.

"Flash-forward 30 years, I need a new location, I come back over here, and the name is still on the window," said Deforest.

Inside the building, deForest says he found pressing combs and pullers. He calls the tools sacred. They are vintage tools used on African-American hair in the days when the south was covered with signs like: WE SERVE COLORED -- CARRY OUT ONLY.

"By virtue of the fact that this is my desk, and I can sit in front of this sign, it's like I am paying homage to those that were suffering as a result of this sign," said Deforest.
    
A decade after moving in, Deforest still does hair at the location. With the artifacts, signs and thousands of classic albums on display, he calls it a museum. It's a place where you can chill out and listen to Billy Eckstine and reflect on the area's unique history of survival.

The museum is located at 54 Hilliard Avenue NE. For more information on Madam C. J. Walker, click here!

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