Black History encapsulates more than a month. This new daily series will take a look at some lesser known events and people in the world.
Before Bruno Mars, there was Michael Jackson. Before LeBron James, there was Michael Jordan. Before Oprah Winfrey, there was Madame C.J. Walker -- the original black female millionaire.
Born in December of 1867 to former slaves, Walker’s name was originally Sarah Breedlove. Even then, she was making waves. Breedlove was the first of five children to be born into freedom. Sadly though, life afforded her no other merits as she was orphaned at 7, married at 14 and widowed at 20. She eventually became a single mother working for $1.50 a day as a washerwoman.
Breedlove eventually married her third husband -- Charles Joseph Walker -- who worked as a newspaper sales agent. By the 1890’s, Walker nee Breedlove began to lose her hair. But she developed a tonic that would help her grow her hair back at a rate so fast that it eclipsed the amount of hair she lost and then some. The recipe reportedly came to her in a dream: “a big black man appeared to me [in a dream] and told me what to mix up for my hair.” Using her husband’s newspaper connections, Walker was able to market the new hair care product.
The product was a hit as Sarah Breedlove Walker began doing business as Madame C.J. Walker. She employed a multilevel marketing style (similar to today’s Mary Kay) that saw sales teams doing the bidding. Her fortune grew immensely as she beat all variations of racism sexism.
But not all of her works can be summed up as purely monetary. Walker also managed to do a lot of work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She even helped orphanages, homes and colleges to be built.