Moment in History: Madam CJ Walker (video)


Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove; December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919) was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records. Multiple sources mention that although other women might have been the first, their wealth is not as well-documented.

Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products for black women through the business she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She became known also for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the artsVilla Lewaro, Walker’s lavish estate in Irvington, New York, served as a social gathering place for the African-American community. At the time of her death, she was considered the wealthiest African-American businesswoman and wealthiest self-made black woman in America. Her name was a version of “Mrs. Charles Joseph Walker,” after her third husband.

Walker died on May 25, 1919, from kidney failure and complications of hypertension at the age of 51.

Walker’s remains are interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City.

At the time of her death, Walker was considered to be worth between a half million and a million dollars, making her the wealthiest African-American woman in America at that time.

In 2020, actress Octavia Spencer committed to portray Walker in a TV series based on the biography of Walker written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. The series is called Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker.


Photo Credits:

By The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Jim. Henderson – Own work, CC BY 4.0,

By Anthony22 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Black History




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