December 23, 1867 Sarah Breedlove (Madam C.J. Walker), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born in Delta, Louisiana.
In 1906, Walker founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to manufacture and sell hair care products and cosmetics and by 1917 it was the largest business in the nation owned by a black person.
She was quoted as saying, “There is no royal, flower strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female who became a millionaire by her own achievements and Walker saw her personal wealth not as an end in itself, but as a means to promote economic opportunities for others.
Walker was known for her philanthropy and after her death on May 25, 1919 she left two-thirds of her estate to educational institutions and charities, including the Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College.
Her $5,000 pledge to the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign was the largest gift the organization had ever received. Walker was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U. S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992.
Her biographies include “Madam C.J. Walker: Building a Business Empire” (1994), “The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s First Black Female Millionaire” (2001), and “Madam C. J. Walker, Entrepreneur” (2008).
Walker’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.