Madam C. J. Walker (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Vastly successful as a self-made entrepreneur, Walker provided African American women with effective hair-care techniques and products as well as less arduous, higher paying employment as Walker Agents. She also made sizeable contributions to African American charities and educational institutions, supported African American architects, artists, and literary figures, and spoke out against injustices suffered by her people.
Sarah Breedlove was born to Owen and Minerva Breedlove, former slaves who remained as sharecroppers on the one-thousand-acre cotton plantation of Robert W. Burney in Delta, Louisiana (across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg). When Sarah was seven, her parents died during a major outbreak of yellow fever. She and her sister Louvenia soon moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and worked as laundresses. Louvenia married, so Sarah lived with her and her husband, Willie Powell. At age fourteen Sarah married Moses McWilliams, partly to escape her domineering brother-in-law. When she was seventeen, Sarah gave birth to her daughter, Lelia. Two years later, Sarah’s husband was killed. She then moved to St. Louis, Missouri (which had one of the country’s largest African American populations), because she had heard wages for laundresses would be higher there.
Sarah continued working as a laundress or cook for nearly twenty years while taking classes at night and saving...
(The entire section is 1920 words.)
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