Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) was America’s first Black millionaire, and the first woman of any race in the United States to become a self-made millionaire. She was a entrepreneur, philanthropist and civil rights activist. Walker broke through glass ceilings, battled racism, fought sexism, and achieved success despite all odds against her.
Walker was born as Sarah Breedlove on a cotton plantation in Louisiana on December 23, 1867. Her birth marked a huge milestone for her family, she was the first of her parents five children born into freedom. The road ahead would not be easy. She was orphaned at age 7, married at age 14 and widowed at age 20 with a two year old daughter to support.
Initially, Sarah learned about hair care from her brothers who were both barbers in St. Louis. She took a job as a sales agent for an African American hair care entrepreneur. She began to refine her knowledge about haircare and business practices, and then began to develop her own product line.
In 1905, at age 37, she moved to Denver Colorado where she continue to sell products and develop her own hair care business. She married Charles Walker 1906 and became known as Madame C.J. Walker. She marketed herself as an independent hairdresser and retailer of hair care products. She initially sold her products door to door and taught other black women how to groom and style their hair. She made history and set the bar for future Black entrepreneurs!
Links for Learning:
Madam C.J. Walker’s “Wonderful Hair Grower – National Museum of African American History and Culture