This Day in Black History: May 25, 1919

Entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker died at age 51.

Posted: 05/25/2014 12:00 AM EDT
This Day in Black History: May 25, 1919 | Madame C.J. Walker

Renowned African-American entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker began her unlikely path to success as Sarah Breedlove, born on Dec. 23, 1867, in Delta, Louisiana, to two former slaves. After struggling with a scalp ailment and hair loss, Breedlove experimented with homemade remedies and products made by Black entrepreneur Annie Malone, for whom she ultimately went to work as a sales agent in Denver.

It was there that she met husband Charles Joseph Walker. She changed her name to Madame C.J. Walker and developed a scalp conditioning and healing formula called Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower. It was the start of the Walker System empire, that included hair care products and cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents and Walker Schools. Her innovative and entrepreneurial spirit also enabled thousands of other Black women in the United States and the Caribbean to earn good incomes and live life on their own terms.

When Walker died on May 25, 1919, she was the sole owner of an enterprise worth more than $1 million. "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success," she once said. "And if there is, I have not found it — for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard."

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