Black History Month 2012: Madam C.J. Walker

14 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a pioneering entrepreneur and advocate, Madam C.J. Walker. Born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana in 1867, the future Madam Walker spent the first 40 years of her life as a wife and homemaker. Her third marriage (after burying two husbands) was to Charles Joseph Walker, a publisher, in 1906.

Like many African-American women, Breedlove suffered from scalp disease and hair loss as a result of limited plumbing and hygiene–one of the many consequences of racism when you deny a group of people adequate living conditions. She had experimented with a number of remedies and shampoos and by the time she married Walker she had perfected a formula that had the results she wanted. She decided to market the product and soon she and her husband had a thriving mail-order business with Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. She opened a “hair culturist” college in Pittsburgh and then moved to Indianapolis where she headquartered her growing empire.

Due to the success of her business efforts and her sharp acumen at promotion and marketing, she amassed a small fortune. Walker was the first African-American millionaire; she was also the first American woman to become a millionaire through her own efforts.

For the last decade of her life, Walker was active in education and advocacy. She ran classes for African-American women to teach them to run their own businesses. She was active in the NAACP and the YMCA; she also made the largest single donation to preserve the birthplace of Frederick Douglass as a historical landmark. Madam C.J. Walker died in 1919 from hypertension, leaving behind an impressive legacy of business sense and philanthropy.

3 Responses to “Black History Month 2012: Madam C.J. Walker”

  1. le artiste boots February 14, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Reblogged this on LE ARTISTE BOOTS and commented:
    You are on the ball. Wonderful post.
    Should be in a book !

  2. Angela Randolph February 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    I just wanted to inform your readers of this very important fact – Madame C.J. Walker’s historic company still exists today and has never stopped manufacturing all of the original hair oils! Anyone who visits our website at can view and purchase the full product line.

    The website also contains valuable information about the stock / asset sale (including the ability to view the stock certificates) and Raymond Randolph’s purchase of the original Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1985 from the Walker Trustees in Indianapolis, Indiana and how the Randolph Family continues to keep Madame Walker’s true legacy alive.

    To promote the entrepreneurial spirit that Madame Walker exemplified, the website provides individuals the opportunity to become a “Walker Agent” and sell Madame C.J. Walker products. By clicking on the “Find A Distributor” tab, you will see agents located in the United Kingdom, France, Bahamas, and the United States.

    September 2011 marked the Centennial Anniversary of the incorporation of Madame C.J. Walker’s historic company – doing business today as Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises. On September 24th, 2011 we commemorated this event with the “Tracing the Footsteps of a Legacy” 100th Year Celebratory Walk. You can visit our website to view the Souvenir Program.

    Due to our ownership of Madame’s historic company and the historical documents and memorabilia of the company, the Randolph Family can provide the most detailed and historically accurate information about Madame C.J. Walker and her company by calling toll free, 866-552-2838, by clicking on the “Frequently Asked Questions” FAQS tab of our website, or by going to the contact us page of our website.

    Angela Randolph

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