Four pioneering African-American women millionaires after slavery

Michael Eli Dokosi February 15, 2020

Madam C. J Walker

Known as the first Black woman to become a self-made millionaire in the U.S., Walker was a business woman who made her fortune through her development of beauty and hair products for black women. Born on December 23, 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism.

After her husband’s death, C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove moved to St. Louis with her daughter, where she began to work as a laundress. At the time, black women had a lot of issues with their hair, including dandruff and other scalp diseases. After experimenting with products in her home and other items in the market, Breedlove developed a shampoo and ointment with sulfur that helped stimulate the scalp and made it healthier for hair growth.

Madam C.J. Walker hair-care products — Black America Web

With her new husband, Charles Joseph Walker, Breedlove developed and marketed a line of beauty and hair products for black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Madam Walker’s hair products were distributed and sold door to door throughout the United States.

In 1908, the couple settled in Pittsburgh and opened Lelia College; an institute ran by her daughter A’Lelia Walker, where they trained individuals in hair care and entrepreneurship. She died of kidney failure at her New York estate at the age of 51.


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