Black History Spotlight: Madame C.J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867. The fifth of Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove’s six children, she was the first Breedlove child born after the end of slavery. Madam Walker has been listed in past editions of the Guinness Book of World Records as the first self-made  Black American woman millionaire, who neither inherited her money or married someone who was a millionaire. She received very little formal education as a child, except possibly at her family’s small church in Delta, Louisiana where Reverend Curtis Pollard—a black man who had served as a Louisiana state senator during Reconstruction—was the minister. Sadly, by the time young Sarah Breedlove was old enough to attend school in the early 1870s, the white legislators refused to provide funds for the education of black children in Louisiana . After the death of her parents when she was only seven years old, Sarah had to work to help support the household where she lived with her sister and brother-in-law. While it is impossible to document with a certainty that this is the case, at the time of her death Madam Walker’s estate had an estimated value of $600,000 to $700,000 (equivalent to approximately $6 million to $7 million in today’s dollars). The total sales of her company, the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, during the final year of her life reached more than $500,000, making the value of her company several times that amount. The combination of her personal assets (real estate, furnishings, jewelry, etc.) and the value of her business was well over $1,000,000. 

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