Madam C.J. Walker: 5 Things You Should Know About Her Role in Black History

madam cj walkerMadam who? I asked myself the same thing. Those of us who are not immediately familiar with her spot in Black History Month are missing out, for she was an amazing woman, inventor, and entrepreneur. Madam C.J. Walker was born December 23, 1867 as Sarah Breedlove. What transformed her into Madam Walker was her hair loss.

By the time she reached her late 30s, she had already lost one husband and was beginning to lose her hair, thanks to a scalp disease and products on the market that were damaging hair rather than enhancing it.

Madam C.J. Walker was a strong, determined black woman who deserves every bit of fame and recognition she garners. Here are five things you need to know about this amazing woman.

  1. When she began losing her hair, Breedlove didn't just stand idly by. Instead she started experimenting with products in her home. She eventually came up with a recipe that not only preserved damaged hair, but encouraged new hair growth. The secret ingredient? Sulphur -- which you'll still find in many hair products today.
  2. Sarah opened Lelia College. This wasn't some mere beauty school -- Walker was training "hair culturists" who would go on to use her products in their own businesses. Not long after, she opened her own factory in Indianapolis for production of not just hair products, but facial products as well.
  3. In July 1917, a white mob lynched more than 36 blacks in Illinois. Walker became instrumental in presenting anti-lynching legislation to the White House.
  4. In 1998, Madam Walker was honored with her own postage stamp as part of the Black Heritage series.
  5. The Guinness Book of Records lists Walker as the first woman to become a millionaire by her own hand. At the time of her death, her estate was worth roughly $600,000 and her business was worth well over $1,000,000.


What do you think is most impressive about Madam C.J. Walker? Who else should be highlighted for Black History Month?


Image via Kim Nowacki/Flickr

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