“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South.” –Madam C. J. Walker (1912 National Negro Business League Convention)
Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana on the R. W. Burney plantation across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, Mississippi.
She was the first of Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove’s children born a free person after the end of the Civil War.
Sarah Breedlove had at least five siblings including one sister, Louvenia, and four brothers, Owen, Jr., Alexander, James and Solomon.
One of the earliest known documents describing a Breedlove family member is the deposit signature card for Sarah’s brother, Alexander Breedlove, who opened an account at the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company in Vicksburg, Mississippi on April 23, 1876.
By 1876, both Owen and Minerva Breedlove had died, leaving young Sarah to live with her sister, Louvenia, who had married a man named Jesse Powell.
When Madam Walker died in May 1919, she had transformed herself from a poor washerwoman into a entrepreneur and pioneer of the modern cosmetics and hair care industries. She often is cited as the first self-made American woman millionaire entrpreneur. She used her wealth and influence as a philanthropist, arts patron and political activist.
You’ll find more information about Madam Walker and the Breedlove family, in On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer.
A’Lelia has written several articles about Walker on her website blog. Here is a link to an article about Madam Walker’s family members and how they keep the Walker legacy alive today: “A Walker Family Perspective”
Click here to read a brief biography of Walker .
The Library of Congress has a list of sources about Madam Walker and the history of the cosmetics and hair care industries.
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