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Beyond the Beauty Shop

02/06/2014 13:30

Madam C.J. Walker - Products, Daughter & Hair Products - Biography

Madam C.J. Walker, Beyond the Beauty Shop

We know the main story of Sarah Breedlove, as known as Madam C.J. Walker, the first black female millionaire. Her products were established in the early 1900s and are still being sold today. But Walker was not just an inventor of hair-growing products, but a hands-on activist who used her influence to fight the White House against lynching and slavery. Born in Delta, Louisiana in 1867, Breedlove was an orphan by age seven who fled from a cotton plantation and married at 14 in order to get away from her abusive brother-in-law. With a child in tow, she moved to St. Louis after her husband died and lived with brothers, who were barbers and taught her the business. Working for $1.50 per day, she used her money to raise and educate her daughter. Around 1890, Breedlove suffered a scalp ailment and tried various products to keep her from losing hair. Years later, after she had moved to Denver to work in sales for Annie Malone, she changed her name to Madam C.J. Walker. It was then that she literally lived her dream and began inventing products for hair growth. By 1910, Walker had built the largest manufacturing company in the country, which housed her second training school and salon. While working and training students, she would give contributions like $1,000 to the Indiana colored YMCA. When the NAACP took on anti-lynching work, Walker issued a check for $5,000. Then in 1917, three dozen black people were killed by an angry white mob in East St. Louis, Illinois. Walker immediately joined civic leaders and left for the White House to protest lynching. That same year, she preached a message of equality at the Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia, the largest gathering of black businesswoman at the time. Madam C.J. Walker died in 1919 at her mansion, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. She left her major estate to her only daughter, Lelia. Her home still stands and is privately owned.

By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show

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