BIRTHPLACE OF MADAM C.J. WALKER
Born of sharecropper parents in Delta, Louisiana, as Sarah Breedlove, this self-made woman went on to become Madam C.J. Walker, the first female millionaire. As a wealthy African-American woman, Ms. Walker used her prominent position to help overcome racial discrimination by supporting civic, educational, and social agencies to aid African-Americans world-wide.
The home of her parents, her birthplace, is currently preserved and is utilized as the Delta, Louisiana City Hall.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HST/is_4_2/ai_658054501904, after hearing Booker T. Washington speak, Sarah is inspired to go into business for herself. A few months later, Sarah perfects the recipe for her hair formula and begins doing hair-straightening demonstrations with a hot steel comb that was given to her by one of her washing clients. Sarah's business starts to grow, with a steady stream of clients who want their hair straightened and a portion of her scalp formula, which she dishes out in tin cups.
Due does a wonderful job of depicting Breedlove's courtship and marriage to Denver businessman Charles J. Walker, the growth of their business, and the struggles that often accompany success. The wealth for which she is known and celebrated comes with a great many sacrifices for Madam Walker, including that of her marriage and a harried work schedule that leaves her little time to enjoy her accomplishments and compromises her health. Walker also feels increasingly divided between the old Sarah--who yearns to use the word "ain't" and wear the "threadbare cotton dresses" in which she grew comfortable in her early years--and the public Madam Walker who must practice her diction and is determined to do all she can to make life better for her people. Although admirers surround her, Due successfully imparts the very modern sense Walker has that there is no one in her life who really knows her.
Throughout the book, Due feeds all of the reader's senses, filling her story with rich detail that helps to place the reader in Walker's time while providing an intimate look at black life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Too often our African American heroes and heroines are placed on pedestals--far out of reach. Through The Black Rose, Due presents an opportunity to experience the life of a well-known historical figure and to make an intimate connection between our collective past and our lives and struggles in the here and now.
Natasha Tarpley is the author of Girl in the Mirror: Three Generations of Black Women in Motion. She lives in New York City.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Cox, Matthews &
The Black Rose: The Magnificent Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America's First Black Female Millionaire
by Tananarive Due Ballantine/One World, June 2000, ISBN 0-345-43960-0
History is a tangible, living thing in Tananarive Due's new book, based on research begun by Alex Haley. Due traces the life of Madam C.J. Walker from her childhood to the development of her famous hair products and her subsequent ascension to wealth and prominence.
The book opens in 1874 in Delta, Louisiana, on the plantation where Walker's parents were sharecroppers. We are introduced to 10-year-old Sarah Breedlove, as she was called before she took the name Madam C.J. Walker. Due paints a portrait of the Breedloves as a loving black family who, despite the hardships they face, thoroughly support and enjoy one another. But too soon the family crumbles when Sarah's parents die suddenly and she and her older sister, Louvenia, are left to fend for themselves. On the heels of this tragedy they move to Vicksburg, Mississippi, the nearest town, where they begin to take in laundry to survive.
With an abundance of detail, Due reconstructs a rich and palpable historical world. The story moves slowly as we follow Sarah and Louvenia from one hardship to the next. Several years later, each sister marries. Sarah loses her first husband and is left to raise her daughter, Lelia, on her own. It is during this period that the itchy scalp with which Sarah has been afflicted since she was a child begins to worsen and she loses much of her hair. Sarah and Lelia begin to work on creating a hair formula in attempts to relieve Sarah's condition.
EXCERPT 3: Book Discussion at Gaithersburg Library Features Story Of First Female African American Millionaire
On Her Own Ground,, a tribute to Madam C. J. Walker, the first female African American millionaire, written by her great-great-granddaughter, local author A'Lelia Bundles, will be the featured work at a book discussion to be held on May 15 at the Gaithersburg Library, beginning at 7 p.m.
Ms. Walker was born to slaves, married and divorced by the age of 20 and scrubbed floors. She then discovered that the road to wealth was paved with a hair-care formula for black women. The biography highlights her business aptitude and her philanthropic efforts.
The public is invited to join with members of the Xi Sigma Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority for a lively discussion of this remarkable woman and her many accomplishments.
The discussion is open to all adults and books will be available for participants. The library is located at 18330 Montgomery Village Avenue.
For more information or to register, call the library at 301-840-2515 or register in person.
EXCERPT 4: Louisiana Leaders: Notable Women in History
MADAM C.J. WALKER (SARAH BREEDLOVE),
Born Sarah Breedlove on a Delta, LA cotton plantation, she is considered to be the first Black American woman millionaire. In some references she is described as the first self-made American woman millionaire. After being orphaned at age seven, and widowed with a two year old daughter, she moved to St. Louis where on a laundress' salary she educated her daughter and sent her to Knoxville College. She decided to start her own line of hair care products and with less than two dollars in savings, set up a mail order business in 1906 in Denver, CO with the help of her new husband Charles Walker. The company grew to include a beauty school in Pittsburgh, and later offices in Indianapolis and Harlem. By 1916 the Walker Company included 20,000 agents, both men and women, in the U.S., Central America, and the Caribbean.
A noted philanthropist, Madam Walker gave $1000 to the building fund for the YMCA in the Indianapolis black community, the largest gift given by an African American woman. At the 1912 National Negro Business League convention, after League founder Booker T. Washington had refused her request to be on the program, she spoke from the floor and so impressed the mostly male audience that they invited her back the following year as a keynote speaker. In 1918 she gave the keynote speech at several NAACP fund-raisers for the anti-lynching effort and in her will contributed thousands of dollars to Black schools, individuals, organizations, and institutions.
Madam Walker was a strong advocate of Black women's economic independence which she fostered by creating business opportunities for women at a time when the only other options were domestic work and sharecropping. Her business philosophy stressed economic independence for women: "...I want to say to every Negro woman present, don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come...Get up and make them!" (National Negro Business League, 1913) Her entrepreneurial strategies led to what has become a multibillion dollar Black cosmetics industry and she used her wealth and status to work towards political and economic rights for African Americans and women.
Lamara Williams-Hackett - LSU