NAME: Madam C.J. Walker (birth name Sarah Breedlove)
DATE OF BIRTH: December 23, 1867
PLACE OF BIRTH: Delta, Louisiana
DATE OF DEATH: May 25, 1919
PLACE OF DEATH: Irvington-on-Hudson, New York
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Sarah Breedlove, who later became known as Madam C. J. Walker, was born into a former-slave family to parents Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She had one older sister, Louvenia and brothers Alexander, James, Solomon and Owen, Jr. Her parents had been slaves on Robert W. Burney's Madison Parish farm which was a battle-staging area during the Civil War for General Ulysses S. Grant and his Union troops. She became an orphan at age 7 when her parents died. To escape a ...view middle of the document...
Her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker and her daughter Lelia had key roles in the growth and day-to-day operations of the business. In September, 1906 Madam Walker and her husband toured the country promoting their products and training sales agents while Lelia ran a mail-order operation from Denver. From 1908 to 1910 they operated a beauty training school, the Lelia College for Walker Hair Culturists, in Pittsburgh. In 1910 they moved the central operations to Indianapolis, then the country's largest inland manufacturing base, to utilize that city's access to eight major railway systems. Madam Walker and her husband divorced in 1912. She soon reached the height of her success, at which point Madam Walker gathered a group of key principals to run the company.
She became an inspiration to many black women. Fully recognizing the power of her wealth and success she lectured to promote her business which in turn empowered other women in business. She gave lectures on black issues at conventions sponsored by powerful black institutions. She also encouraged black Americans to support the cause of World War I and worked to have black veterans granted full respect.
After the bloody East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917, Madam Walker devoted herself to having lynching made a federal crime. In 1918 she was the keynote speaker at many National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) fund raisers for the anti-lynching effort throughout the Midwest and East. She was honored later that summer by the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) for making the largest contribution to saving the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She donated large sums of money to the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign and later in her life revised her will to support black schools, organizations, individuals, orphanages, retirement homes, as well as YWCAs and YMCAs.
Builders completed construction of Madam Walker's home, Villa Lewaro, in August of 1918 in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Her neighbors included industrialists Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller. The grand estate...