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Encyclopedia > Madame C.J. Walker
Sarah Breedlove

Madame C. J. Walker (1867-1919), born Sarah Breedlove, started out by picking cotton on a plantation in Louisiana. Breedlove later changed her name to Madame C.J. Walker, and became a hair-care tycoon and first African American millionaire.

Born in Delta, Louisiana, raised on farms there and in Mississippi, married by age fourteen and widowed at twenty, Madame C.J. Walker went on to become a successful hair and cosmetics entrepreneur and, by the early twentieth century, the richest self-made woman in America. Yet Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself but a means to help promote and expand economic opporotunities for others, especially African Americans. She took great pride in the profitable employment -- and alternative to domestic labor -- thar her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked for commissioned agents. Walker was also known for her philanthropy, supporting African American's educational and social institutions from the national to the grass roots levels. Walker's daughter A'Leila, carried on this tradition, opening her mother's and her homes to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and becoming a catalytic figure in that movement.

External links

  • A Biography of Madame C. J. Walker (http://www.madamecjwalker.com/)



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