Madam C.J. Walker

Black History Month Profile

Sarah Breedlove or Madam C.J. Walker was born on December 23, 1867, in Delta, Louisiana. She was born free, to two former slaves Owen and Minerva Breedlove.

However, Walker was later orphaned at the young age of 7 and was sent to live with her sister in Mississippi. At 14, Walker gave birth to her one and only child, A’ Lelia Walker in 1885. During the 1890s, Walker developed a scalp ailment, causing a majority of her hair to fall out. At her hair’s expense, she began to experiment and create home remedies to help fix her condition.

Walker began working as a hair-care agent for a similar African-American entrepreneur in 1905 named Annie Malone. Walker aspired to create a business after working for Malone, for her hair-care pomade formula and heated combs. After Breedlove met Charles Joseph Walker, she then changed her name and went by Madam C.J. Walker. With her husband’s help in 1907, the two went throughout the South promoting her hair products.

The following year Walker opened a factory and business school in Pittsburgh. She founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1910. She transferred her business to Indianapolis and continued promoting it throughout the Caribbeans in 1913. That same year she donated money towards the construction of a YMCA in Indianapolis. She also donated more than 5,000 to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Walker died on May 25, 1919. After her death, her business had made than $1 million. Her net worth was more than $600,000 and was credited as one of the first African-American millionaires. Her daughter went on to become apart of the Harlem Renaissance and her one-third of Walker’s net worth went to her, while the rest went to various charities.