Sarah Breedlove, more popularly known as Madam C.J. Walker, was an accomplished African American businesswoman, philanthropist, inventor and political activist considered as one of the most successful African American women of her time. To know more about this iconic figure and how she made her mark in the African American history, here is a list of her accomplishments.
1. Self-Made Millionaire
Born to slave parents, Madam C. J. Walker went on to become one of the first to achieve the American dream. She was one of the first American women to be proclaimed a self-made millionaire and one of the first African American to become one.
In her 20′s, while she was living with her brothers who were barbers and following the death of her husband she worked as a commission agent for a hair care entrepreneur, Annie Turnbo Malone. In her 30′s, she suffered from hair and scalp problems. Since she already knew about hair care, Madam C.J. Walker experimented with home- made remedies and over- the-counter hair treatments and came up with a product for hair treatment and pomade which eventually turned into a business.
3. Successful Businesswoman
Madam Walker also became an entrepreneur due to the success of her experimentations on treating her own hair problems. After her marriage to her second husband, she started to sell hair growth products that catered to African Americans. She traveled to different parts of the U.S with her husband who was also the one who advised her to change her name from Sarah Breedlove to Madam C.J. Walker. She marketed hair products, specifically shampoo and pomade made from her own formula intended to give the hair conditioning effect and traveled not only to all over the U.S, but also to the Caribbean.
4. The Walker System
Her products came to be known as the Madam Walker system. The kit included hair-growth products, shampoo and pomade as well as iron combs. Her business was able to create an image of a miracle hair treatment that can transform brittle hair into soft and shiny hair. She also learned the skills of marketing where agents were dressed in white shirts and black skirts with uniform black satchels. She also had the packaging designed with her picture on the label which was also instrumental to making her widely known in the U.S.
In her desire to help others, Madam C.J. Walker also opened her own school to train hair culturists. She was also active in helping others, giving to charity and sharing her wealth. Aside from recruiting African American women to work as agents for her company and encouraging them to become entrepreneurs themselves, Walker also did many philanthropic works, giving to charitable institutions, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She also taught her daughter Leila the gift of giving. After her death, she gave two-thirds of her wealth to numerous charities, donating $100,000 to orphanages and institutions. She also bequeathed the profits of her estate located at Irvington-on-Hudson to charity. Just before her death, she pledged $5,000 to the NAACP.
6. Political Activist
Aside from being an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam Walker also became active in civic organizations and in the political scene. Rumors circulated that her first husband was lynched and this incident was said to be the reason behind her being generous to the NAACP. She also joined the executive committee of the NAACP New York chapter and organized the Silent Protest Parade joined by 80,000 African Americans. They went to the streets to express their sentiments on a riot that killed 39 African Americans.
Madam C.J. Walker died at an early age but her legacy continued. Even after her death, she continued to be honored with various awards and scholarships named after her.