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Louisiana Delta 65 Logo - Promoting Rural Tourism Along US Highway 65 in Louisiana Wildlife Refuges welcome visitors in fun, educational, safe environments to learn about wildlife conservation... Delicious Southern food like boiled crawfish, fried green tomatoes, grits and so much more Beautiful sunsets, sunrises and outdoor natural beauty are all around in the Delta 65 area

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Bayou Cocodrie
National Wildlife Refuge

Byerley House Museum

CJ Walker

Crescent Plantation

Cushy Alpacas

Delta Music Museum

Delta Airlines Beginnings

Flag Plaza

Frogmore  Plantation


Grants Canal

Hermoine Museum

Jerry Lee Lewis Home Tour

Lake Bruin State Park

Lake Concordia

Lake Providence

Lake St. John

Louisiana Cotton Museum

Mississippi River

Poverty Point Historical Site

Tensas River
National Wildlife Refuge

Thomas Jason Lingo
Community Center 


Underground Railroad Marker

Winter Quarters

What Else We've Got:

Okra Salt Domes | Agriculture | Hiking | Wildlife  | Ancient Mounds | Festivals | Much More!

There ought to be a law against anybody going to Europe until they have seen the things we have in this country.

- Will Rogers


The first female millionaire, born to slave parents in Delta, Louisiana

Madam CJ WalkerBorn 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.

Madam C.J. Walker
First African-American Female Millionaire


Excerpt 1:  Madam C.J. Walker was a highly successful entrepreneur who became the first female African-American millionaire; and provided well-paying jobs for thousands of African-American women at the turn of the century.

Sarah was quoted as saying: "I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From the washtub I was promoted to the cook kitchen and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground."

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 to Minerva and Owen Breedlove on the shores of the Mississippi River in Delta, Louisiana. Her parents were ex-slaves living on the Burney plantation in Delta and Sarah was the fifth of six children, their first child born in freedom. Sarah's mother died when she was only seven years old and her father died before Sarah turned eight.

At fourteen, Sarah married Moses McWilliams, and they made their home in Vicksburg.  Their daugher, A�Lelia was born in 1885, and two years later, Sarah's husband died.  Sarah moved with her daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, where for the next eighteen years Sarah supported herself and her daughter by obtaining work as a washerwoman.

Sarah had an idea to begin a cosmetics business, while living in St. Louis in 1905.  She developed a hair care and grooming system for African-American women that healed scalp disease through more frequent shampooing, massage, and an application of her special ointment. Before this time African-American women who wanted to de-kink their hair had to iron it with a flat iron with their hair placed on a flat surface. Sarah devised a system to straighten hair that used her hair softener with the aid of a straightening comb.

Encouraged by her success in St. Louis selling her cosmetics and method, Sarah moved to Denver Colorado in July, 1905 where she was joined by her close friend C.J. Walker, a newspaperman. They were married six months later and though they divorced six years later, she kept the name "Madam C.J. Walker" that became famous.

She promoted black self-help and funded scholarships for women at Tuskagee Institute. She was also a major financial contributor to the NAACP, the black YMCA and dozens of charities. Sarah spent extravagant sums of money on her Manhattan townhouse, which later became a salon for members of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1910, she moved her headquarters to Indianapolis, IN

In 1910 she built a plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, that would serve as a center of the Walker enterprises. The company had many branches including the Walker College of Hair Culture and Walker Manufacturing Company, remained in business until it was sold in 1985. The Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company provided employment for over three thousand people and Walker herself claimed that her multi-level sales force had over 20,000 agents by 1919.

Madam Walker was a generous donor to black charities and was active in black philanthropic work. In fact, she made the largest single donation to the National Association of Colored Women�s effort to buy the home of Frederick Douglass to be preserved as a museum. She also contributed generously to such organizations as the Y.M.C.A. of Indianapolis, the National Association of Colored People and to several organizations that provided help to the needy in Indianapolis and scholarships for young men and women at the Tuskegee Institute. Sarah also encouraged her employees in their own community philanthropic work, giving cash prizes to the groups of agents that did the largest amount of community work.

Madam C.J. Walker became known as the wealthiest African-American woman of her time and, to her credit, she used her prominent position to fight against racial discrimination and her substantial fortune to support civic, educational, and social agencies to aid her fellow African-Americans. 


Photo from CJ
First female African American millionaire in America. 

Sarah was born Dec 23, 1867 in Louisiana. The fifth of six children, she was the very first Breedlove child born after the end of slavery. Sarah was an orphan at the age of six, a bride at the age of 14, a mother at the age of 18 and a widow by the time she was 20. After the death of her husband she packed up her young daughter and re-located to St. Louis to live with her brothers who had established themselves there as barbers. She went to work as a laundress.

In 1905 after the death of her brothers, Sarah moved once again to Denver, CO. Soon after, she began to lose her hair and began experimenting with lotions and remedies for her condition. She developed a scalp preparation using lotions and iron combs that became known as the Walker system. She revolutionized black hair care and sold her home made products door to door. Sarah used a personal approach that won her a fleet of loyal customers. Soon, she established her business headquarters in Denver with another branch in Pittsburgh that was managed by her daughter, A�Lelia. Her business grew to employ over 3,000 workers, primarily door-to-door saleswomen. Her business provided incomes for thousands of African American women who may have otherwise been farm workers, maids or washerwomen. She established a network of clubs for her employees and offered bonuses and incentives to those who contributed to their own communities. She promoted black self-help and funded scholarships for women at Tuskagee Institute. She was also a major financial contributor to the NAACP, the black YMCA and dozens of charities. Sarah spent extravagant sums of money on her Manhattan townhouse which later became a salon for members of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1910, she moved her headquarters to Indianapolis, IN.

Sarah was quoted as saying: "I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From the washtub I was promoted to the cook kitchen and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground." Truly a self-made woman of determination and ambition!

Sarah died prematurely on May 25, 1919 at the age of 51. Her headquarters structure, The Walker Building, was completed after her death in 1927 and is part of a historic renovation district in downtown Indianapolis, IN. In 1999 Sarah was inducted into the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute Hall of Fame.

Sarah overcame incredible hardships and barriers to become not only financially secure but a millionaire in the early 1900�s. At a time when it was frowned upon for women to even hold a job Sarah created thousands of jobs for women through her entrepreneurial skill and hard work. We salute you, Sarah!!


  EXCERPT 5:, 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 & Associates
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

 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


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.

Comments/Suggestions: Lamara Williams-Hackett - LSU
Presentation by Rachel Cassel Murphree, March 1996
Copyright � 1996 Rachel C. Murphree


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Louisiana Delta 65, Inc.
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