Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Black History Month Spotlight:

Madam C.J. Walker

As a beauty blogger, I find it only fitting that I pay homage to Madam C.J. Walker, an African American woman who was a pioneer in the beauty industry.

Walker, née Sarah Breedlove, created a line of hair care and beauty products for African American women during a time when resources of that particular nature were scarce. Several black women, including Walker, suffered from hair loss because of improper maintenance. For one, most Americans lacked indoor plumbing, electricity, and central heating--components essential for one to bathe regularly. Thus, many developed scalp diseases as a result of infrequent washings. To combat this, Walker took matters into her own hands by experimenting with a variety of homemade remedies that an African American female entrepreneur named Annie Malone created. After working for Malone as a sales agent, Walker decided to develop her own line of hair care products, and soon created a shampoo and an ointment that contained sulfur, a nutritional supplement that promotes hair growth.

Walker's beauty business became widely successful, as she began selling her hair care products throughout the United States. In 1908, she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh, where they established Leila College, a school that served to cultivate other beauty professionals, otherwise known as "hair culturists." In 1910, Walker moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she opened up headquarters and built a factory for Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Walker was a social and political activist who fought to educate others on how to successfully grow their own businesses. She partnered with powerful organizations such as the NAACP, and donated her time and money to assist in the advancement of similar organizations, as well as black schools, orphanages, and retirement homes.

Walker, who passed away on May 25, 1919 from complications of hypertension, was the first self-made female American (not just African-American) millionare. Thanks to pioneers like her, black women today now have a plethora of options when it comes to beauty products. Furthermore, women in general now have access to information and resources that can make their dreams of becoming successful entrepreneurs in the beauty industry a reality.

For more info on Madam C.J. Walker's hair care products, which are still available for purchase today, visit Other resources to check out:


salandram said...

Thanks for sharing this...I love hearing about our heritage and all the great things that our people have accomplished and made possible for us.

Augusta7 said...

Wow! great info I also love hearing and reading about great things our people have done. Its great inspiration and knowledge to share.