Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker (1867 - 1919)

Central African

            Sarah Breedlove (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919), known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country, "the world's most successful female entrepreneur of her time," and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.

            Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the arts. Villa Lewaro, Walker’s lavish estate in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, served as a social gathering place for the African American community.

            Various scholarships and awards have been named in Walker's honor: The Madam C. J Walker Business and Community Recognition Awards are sponsored by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Oakland/Bay Area chapter. An annual luncheon honors Walker and awards outstanding women in the community with scholarships.

            Spirit Awards are sponsored the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis. Established as a tribute to Walker, the annual awards have honored national leaders in entrepreneurship, philanthropy, civic engagement, and the arts since 2006. Awards presented to individuals include the Madame C. J Walker Heritage Award as well as young entrepreneur and legacy prizes.

            Walker was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca, New York, in 1993. In 1998 the U.S. Postal Service issued a Madam Walker commemorative stamp as part of its Black Heritage Series.

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