Black Inventors and Innovators - Madame CJ Walker
Madame CJ Walker was born December 23, 1867 in Delta Louisiana and died May 25, 1919 in New York, New York. Walker was one of six children born to former slaves who became sharecroppers. Walker’s parents died when Sarah was very young and she ended up moving around. At one point Walker moved in with her sister and brother-in-law but her sister’s husband was very abusively so Walker ran away and married at the age of 14 and shortly after had a daughter. A few years later Walker’s husband was murdered by a lynch mob and Walker moved Missouri with her daughter. It was at this point that Walker would develop her hair care products.
Due to all the stress Walker was enduring throughout her life her hair started to fall out. Walker tried several different products to stop her hair from falling out and to help it to grow but nothing worked. It was during this time that Walker had a dream where a big black man came to her and told her what products she needed to mix together. She sent for all the products, mixed them together and applied them to her scalp. In a few weeks her hair was coming in faster than it was falling out. She also tried the formula on some of her friends and found that it worked for them too. There were no other hair care products for Blacks at the time so Walker decided to go into the business of selling hair products to Black women.
When Walker started her business she had $2.00 in her pocket. Walker started by placing advertisements in Black newspapers throughout the United States and going door-to-door to sell the products; hair conditioners, facial creams, and hot combs. The Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing Company grew quickly and in 1906 when Walker’s daughter graduated from college her daughter started to manage the company while Walker traveled to other countries to market the products. Walker felt that it was important to empower women and therefore tried to hire mostly women into the company.
After nine years Walker went from a woman with $2.00 in her pocket to a woman with a net worth of over a million dollars. Thanks to her dream and hair care products Walker was able to purchase a 34 room mansion located off the Hudson River in New York.
Madam CJ Walker overcame loss and adversity throughout her life and was able to amass a fortune and to help other women empower themselves. Walker is a true inspiration.