Moving Stories: Videos from the American South.
Beauty & Struggle
The Story of 54 Hilliard St.
Crew & Credits
Shot, Edited & Directed - Zach Wolfe
Drone Footage - Jeff Wolk
Assistant Editor - Chris Bone
Still Photography - Zach Wolfe
Run Time: 10:27
Release Date: 06/17/15
You don’t need meters with blinking lights to detect the ghosts inside the Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Shoppe and Museum in Atlanta.
It’s a tiny space that came into being long ago as a beauty shoppe branded with the name of Madame Walker, the first self-made female African-American millionaire. Years later, in 1949, WERD radio, the nation’s first black-owned station, started broadcasting from the space immediately above the beauty shoppe. In 1959, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s offices directly behind the shoppe’s south wall.
Madame C.J.’s today may be the single coolest vibe vortex in Atlanta, especially since a self-described “soul brother from Cleveland” named Ricci International made it his mission to preserve and reinvigorate the legacies and music from that era. In his place live the memories of African-American pioneers who helped change the world, working from the corner of Auburn Avenue and Hilliard Street.
“In its heyday, Auburn Avenue ... they called it the richest negro street in America, but it was also the most cosmopolitan street in the black South for sure,” says Maynard Eaton, a longtime Atlanta journalist and today the SCLC’s director of communication. “This was the Harlem of the South for black folks. And Ricci has a cosmopolitan, upscale, kind of place that hearkens back to the days of old.”
Go there now, through the lens of Atlanta filmmaker Zach Wolfe.