Black HERstory: Madam C.J. Walker

“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.” Madam Walker, National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912.
“I got my start by giving myself a start.” Madam C. J. Walker

Orginally named Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker , Madam C. J. Walker was born to former slaves in 1867 and is best known for her role in revolutionizing the African-American hair care industry in the 20th century.

“One night I had a dream, and in that dream a big black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up for my hair. I made up my mind I would begin to sell it.” Madam C. J. Walker

During the 1890’s, Walker began to suffer from a scalp ailment that resulted in significant hair loss. This prompted her to began experimenting with various homemade remedies and store-bought products made by black entrepreneur Annie Malone.  After getting married in 1905, Walker founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula. She traveled for a year and a half promoting her products in the deep south and southeast, which included door-to-door sales and demonstrations. The Walker System included hair products, cosmetetics, licenseed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools. This system shaped the foundation of a flourishing national corporation which provided meaningful employment to thousands of black women. The Walker System snagged national headlines and employed over 3,000 people. Madam C.J. Walker’s marketing strategies and relentless drive birthed her label as “the first known African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire.” (Mary Bellis)

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success and if there is, I have not found it—for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
Madam C. J. Walker

 “Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” Madam C. J. Walker

Sources: Mary Bellis for, Madam Walker Essay by A’Lelia Bundles



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