Who is Madam C.J. Walker

Who is Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker is a renowned self-made millionaire, the first African-American woman in the United States to be so. She built a cosmetics and beauty schooling empire, the Walker Company, which operated until July 1998.

The Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis was named after her, America’s first “self-made” female millionaire and represents her ideals, glorifying the achievements, art forms, culture and history of African-American people.

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, on a cotton plantation, near Delta, Louisiana, on December 23, 1867.

Walker was the fifth child of Minerva and Owen Breedlove and the first in her family to be free-born. Her mother died in 1874 and her father a year after and Walker was sent to live with her sister and brother-in-law.

Walker then married a man named Moses McWilliams to escape her oppressive work environment picking cotton and her abusive brother-in-law.

On June 6, 1885, Walker gave birth to a daughter, A’Leila. When Moses died two years later, Sarah and A’Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Sarah’s brothers had established themselves as barbers.

While in St. Louis, Walker met her second husband Charles J. Walker, who worked in advertising and would later help promote her hair care business.

During the 1890s, Walker developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair, and she began to experiment with both home remedies and store-bought hair care treatments to improve her condition.

Breedlove’s husband Charles helped her create advertisements for a hair care treatment for African Americans that she was perfecting. Her husband also encouraged her to use the more recognizable name “Madam C.J. Walker,” by which she was thereafter known.

As profits grew Walker transferred her thriving business to Indianapolis, in 1910.

She later founded charities that included educational scholarships and donations to homes for the elderly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Conference on Lynching among other organizations focused on improving the lives of African-Americans.

Madam C.J. Walker died on May 25, 1919, at age 51.

At the time of her death, Walker was sole owner of her business, which was valued at more than $1 million.

Walker left one-third of her estate to her daughter, A’Lelia Walker—who would also become well-known as an important part of the cultural Harlem Renaissance—and the remainder to various charities.