Monday, February 6, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana, was the first African-American female self-made millionaire.  Although her older siblings were born as slaves, Sarah was the first child born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.

In her younger years, the deplorable living conditions and lack of indoor plumbing prevalent in living areas caused severe dandruff and scalp ailments, since people did not bathe or wash frequently.  Working as a laundress and with hair care advice from her brothers who were barbers in St. Louis, MO, Sarah managed to cure her own ailments.  She shared her success with other African-American women.

She became a commission agent for Annie Turnbo Malone in 1904, another African-American hair-care entrepreneur.  Sarah used her knowledge to develop her own line of products.  She moved with her daughter to Denver Colorado and married Charles Walker in 1905, becoming known as Madam C J Walker.

Between 1911 and 1919, she and her company employed several thousand women as sales agents.  She knew the power of advertising and printed ads in primarily African-American newspapers and she taught black women who to budget, build their own businesses and how to become financially independent.

At the time of her death, she was considered to be the wealthiest African-American woman in America, but that amount could have been erroneous, since her estate was estimated to be about $600,000.  That is still a considerable amount for the early 20th century.

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