The First Black Millionaire: Madam Cj Walker

“I had the responsibility to provide my own income and make my own decisions. It was possible, but it was not easy. Do not wait for the opportunities to present themselves. You must get up and take control of your destiny. These are the famous words of the First Black Millionaire in America. Madam CJ Walker was born in $1.50. Today, she is a self-made entrepreneur.

Madam CJWalker was her first name. She was born Sarah Breedlove, December 23, 1867 at a Delta Louisiana cotton plantation. Her siblings included five others. Her parents were Owen Breedlove and Minerva (ex-slaves) and they still picked cotton after the civil conflict. Sarah was the only child of her family to be born without a father. But most children in that time worked in the cotton field together with their parents. Her parents both died from yellow fever after she was six. Due to her orphanage, she needed a home to live in. Louvenia moved in to help her sister Louvenia as a maid in the house and in the fields. Louvenia’s abusive husband had an affair with Sarah, so she was 14 when she married Moses McWilliams. She then had a daughter four years later. He died at 18 and Sarah and A’Leila moved to St Louis in 1889. She was hired as a washerwoman and was paid one dollar fifty cents per hour. Her day was spent working, and she went to night school to help her child. Because she has been through so much less than average entrepreneurs of the 21st and 20th centuries, this is an important part her life. Many black women in the same or similar situation would have been at that time. Annie Turbo Malone was her agent and she sold The Great Wonderful Hair Grower to St Lewis while she was there. She is now in her thirties and is in financial trouble. The plumbing was not available at that time, so you weren’t able to wash your hair as often as you wanted. Her condition was so bad that she decided to make home remedies. She tried many methods and finally found a formula that worked for her. Her friends were impressed with her results, so she began to sell the product to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. She learned that her brother had died while she was trying to sell her product. She moved to Denver to assist her sister-in law and four of their children. Charles Joseph Walker is her second husband. He was a part of advertising, helping to develop materials for Wonderful Hair Grower. Because she was Madam CJWalker in the eyes of the public, her business name was also known. She sees the potential to expand her business when she earns ten dollars per day. Charles, her husband, starts traveling to promote the product. Charles decided that the company had not reached its full potential. He decided to leave her and she got divorced. She wanted to be able expand her business.

Charles’ divorce caused her to relocate the business to Pittsburgh. Hot combs were an integral part of the Walker system. Pittsburgh is also known for its steel production. While patenting hot combs, mail order and hot combs, she also founded Lelia College. It was a beauty parlor/training school for Walker agents. Upon completion of the program, women were granted the title of “hair-culturist.” This allowed more than 3000 black women to work for a living. Her business is growing and her skills as a hair culturist are no longer sufficient to manage the business from Pittsburgh. She decides to start a factory to produce and transport goods.

This eventually led to her moving to Indianapolis. “Madame Walker Manufacturing Company (Indiana). “Madame Walker Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Indiana. She grossed over $100,000 per year from 1911 to 1919. They were well-known among black communities.

Walker is sometimes portrayed as greedy, money-driven. However, she was a huge believer of philanthropy. Walker donated large amounts to orphanages and schools. She also “began the construction of a multi-million dollar facility that [would] not only house her company headquarters and factory but also house a black theme theater with 944 seat, a beauty parlor, a salon, a bar, a drugstore, a coffeeshop and many other offices for people of color.” She donated money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because she supports Anti Lynching since her first husband was murdered. She was instrumental in the funding of the Indianapolis black YMCA’s restoration and Fredrick Douglass’ Washington DC home restoration. In 1917, she also established the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association. It was an amazing achievement for her and the world that she became a successful entrepreneur.

Her net worth totaled 1,000,000 dollars. She earned 5100,000 dollars in her last year. She died in 1919 from kidney failure. However, she was able to see her home and the company headquarters being built. Walker made a change to her will shortly before her death from kidney disease. Walker left two thirds of her net proceeds to charity and thousands of dollars to other individuals. She was a mentor and entrepreneur for many black women. She did not just care about the community, but she was also determined to improve America by donating money to charities that help all black Americans survive racism.


  • codyyoung

    Cody Young is an educational blogger. Cody is currently a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communications. Cody has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge with others.



Cody Young is an educational blogger. Cody is currently a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communications. Cody has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge with others.

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