Madam C.J. Walker (Dec. 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919)
- Born as Sara Breedlove to recently freed parents near Delta, La., Madam C.J. Walker’s own scalp ailment resulted in her tinkering with remedies and store-bought products to improve her condition.
- She was hired by Annie Turnbo-Malone, a Black beauty entrepreneur, in 1905 and moved to Denver, Colo., where her husband helped create ads for the Black haircare product Walker was developing.
- By the time she and her husband began traveling around the south and southeast to promote her products in 1907, she began going by the moniker for which she became famous.
- She demonstrated her “Walker Method,” which involved using her pomade formula, hot combs and brushing.
- Two years later, Walker opened a factory and a beauty school in Pittsburgh; by the time she moved her business operations to Indianapolis, the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company had bosted profits equivalent to several million dollars today.
- Walker’s team of beauty salespeople, known as “Walker Agents,” became well-known in the Black community; they promoted the entrepreneur’s “cleanliness and loveliness” philosophy of advancing the community.
- Walker divorced her husband in 1913 and traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting her business and recruiting others to learn the Madam C.J. Walker way.
- By the time Walker returned, she’d move her business to Harlem, N.Y., where her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, bought property. Once there, Madam C.J. Walker dove deep into the local culture.
- A philanthropist, Walker gave to several organizations aimed at bettering the Black community, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Conference on Lynching. She also donated $1,000 — the largest gift by a Black person — toward building the Indianapolis YMCA in 1913.
- Walker died of hypertension in 1919 at age 51 and was the only owner of her $1 million business at the time; she had an estimated personal fortune of between $600,000 and $700,000.
- She’s now credited as the first Black woman self-made millionaire.
- The beauty entrepreneur’s products were relaunched in 2016, further cementing her legacy as a force in the haircare business.
Comments: Get Heard