Madam C J Walker Family Tree
One of the wealthiest and most famous African American women of the 20th century was Madam C. J. Walker. She was a pioneer entrepreneur and philanthropist who built a business empire in the United States. She was also an activist who advocated for the advancement of African Americans. In addition to her business accomplishments, Walker was a social pioneer.
Born in Delta, Louisiana, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at an early age. Her parents were former slaves. At age fourteen, she married Moses McWilliams. They had one daughter, Lelia. However, at two years of age, Lelia died.
Madam Walker worked very hard throughout her life. When she moved to Indianapolis in 1910, she founded a company that was successful. In the city, she opened a beauty school and started selling hair care products. The company employed over three thousand people at its peak. As a businesswoman, she donated large amounts of her wealth to the NAACP and the Black YMCA.
After her marriage to John Davis, the couple divorced. A year later, Madam Walker moved to Denver, Colorado. Her husband had died in 1887. Although she was left widowed, she refused to let her husband slow her down. Instead, she developed health problems, causing her to lose her hair. Throughout her lifetime, she fought for the rights of African Americans and the end to lynching.
A few years after she became a renowned hairdresser, she opened a beauty school. Her products were sold directly to black women. This made her the richest African American woman of her time. She also donated money to a variety of organizations. Some of her donations were to the NAACP and the National Conference on Lynching.
Before becoming a philanthropist, Walker had a successful hair care company. She had been selling products door to door in black neighborhoods of St. Louis. She experimented with different methods to treat scalp diseases. Eventually, she perfected her method, a product called “Walker Method” and earned local success.
During the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Walker’s townhouse was the site of a cultural salon. It became a gathering place for the African American community. There, she met many of her most important customers and spoke at many functions.
She was also a patron of the arts. Her luxurious estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, is a national historic landmark. She was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Among her friends was Mabel Hampton, a famous renaissance dancer.
She was the first African American to achieve self-made millionaire status. In addition to her business accomplishments, she was an avid philanthropist and a social pioneer. She was also a pioneer in the field of cosmetics for black women.
By the time of her death in 1919, Madam Walker was a great-great-grandmother. Her biography is the best-selling book about black women’s history. She was the subject of the 2001 “Go On Girl” book club selection and was a New York Times Notable Book. Her life story is the inspiration for the Netflix series Self Made.