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October 29 , 2008

Madam C. J. Walker: Building a Business Empire


Orphaned at an early age, Madam C. J. Walker, who was born Sarah Breedlove, told people, "I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it!" A washerwoman who turned herself into a powerhouse, Madam revolutionized the business of hair-care products for black women. As her business grew, she moved from Denver to Pittsburgh and then to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she established a beauty school, a laboratory, and a factory where her products were developed and made. In 1913 her daughter A'Lelia opened a beauty salon in a townhouse in Harlem, a section of New York City. Madam soon moved there because, she said, "There is so much joy living in New York." In 1918, she moved into a thirty-room mansion she had built in a town not far from New York. A year later she died at the age of fifty-one years. Her last words were, "I want to live to help my race."

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During her lifetime, Madam C. J. Walker had made lots of money; she had spent some of it on fancy cars, clothes, a gold-leaved grand piano and harp, and a mansion. But she also used her money to help make life better for other people.

Date release: October 24, 2012

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