The Legacy Of Madam CJ Walker

Madam CJ Walker stamp

IgorGolovniov /

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I haven’t found it. For if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
Source: Madam C. J. Walker

Sarah Breedlove was born on December 23, 1867, in Louisiana. Although Sarah’s parents and her five older siblings served as slaves for the owners of the cotton plantation that she was born on, Sarah herself was born a free. Sarah’s parents died while she was only seven years old, causing her to be orphaned. By age eighteen, Sarah had married her first husband and gave birth to her daughter. Eventually, she separated from her husband and moved with her daughter to St. Louis where she would work in her brothers’ barbershop. Soon after, Sara met her soon-to-be second husband, C.J. Walker. Mr. Walker worked in the business of advertising and would help Sarah promote her dream salon and hair care line.Tragedy struck in the 1890’s when Sarah developed a scalp disorder which caused her hair to thin and eventually fall out. During this time Sarah began trying out all kinds of store-bought and at-home remedies in hopes of improving her condition.

It wasn’t until 1905 when Sarah became better known as Madam C.J. Walker. It all happened when she got a job working as a commission agent for Annie Turnbo Malone. Malone, a successful, African American, hair product entrepreneur based out of Colorado. Sarah and her husband began marketing her African American tailored hair care treatment when Mr. Walker made the suggestion that Sarah markets her business using a more recognizable name: Madam C.J. Walker. By 1907 the pair traveled all throughout the South and Southeast to promote Sarah’s hair care product, “The Walker Method,” her own formula of a pomade, brushing methods and heated combs. Within just one year’s time, Sarah opened a factory and beauty school and the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company had finally taken off. Making millions and millions of dollars, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company trained beauticians, aka “Walker Agents,” who became known throughout numerous African American communities. The Walker Manufacturing Company bettered the community by hosting conventions and setting up clubs as well as performing philanthropic efforts and educational works among the African American communities.

After Sarah and C.J.’s divorce in 1913, she continued to promote the company while watching it grow. Around this same time, Sarah’s daughter began taking part in the business, soon being the one to oversee the company’s day-to-day operations. Sarah paid into the community by getting heavily involved in the social and political culture of Harlem; she also was the founder of numerous educational scholarships, donations to the elder population, as well as  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Conference on Lynching, and numerous other organizations which aimed to improve the lives of African-Americans.

In 1919 Madam C.J. Walker passed away of complications related to hypertension. At the time it was estimated that her fortune was anywhere estimated between $600,000 and $700,000. Today, she is known as the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.


By Lionesse

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