At the turn of the 20th Century, black slaves were on their way to becoming free, though it would be many more years before experiencing true freedom. Children born in America after the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, were considered free.
Sarah Breedlove (aka Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)), the first in her family to be born free from slavery, and orphaned as a little girl, was also the first American woman to hold the title of “Millionaire.” As an entrepreneur, and out of necessity, she developed a line of hair care products for black women after discovering she suffered hair loss because of a scalp issue. The merchandise she developed and personalized service attributed to her mega success.
Madam Walker rallied a team of women to sell her products door-to-door. This service model proved lucrative because women appreciated the personal visit to their home. Madam Walker claimed to have trained and employed nearly 20,000 women to sell her products and beautify black women all over the US and the Caribbean. Her brand was famous because of its massive marketing efforts. After her death, her products became more popular in the 1920s as they reached more areas of the world: Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica.
What you may not know: Madam Walker was a Christian woman who sang in her church choir. Her compassion resulted in the promotion of women in the black community. She lavishly donated to education and black charities, funded scholarships, and distributed her wealth to many other organizations.
A’Lelia Bundles, Madam C.J. Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and author of “On Her Own Ground” (later changed to “Self-Made” to tie in with the 2020 Netflix mini-series about Walker), wrote, “The Holy Spirit was with her and for you too when you walk in your anointed purpose!”
The faith and focus it took to see her plans through to success were admirable. The challenges she faced may have caused anyone else to recoil and quit. But she left a legacy of hope for all: with faith and tenacity, anyone can be successful.
“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.” – Madam C.J. Walker
The injustices of those days needed someone to counteract and break through them with love and compassion. Sarah Breedlove stuck to her goals and ambitions. In the process, not only did she become a successful entrepreneur, but she brought many other women with her on the journey. She cared about women and wanted to see them succeed and own their destinies. Women today owe a debt of gratitude to Madam Walker for forging the way for women in business (and for stunning hair)!
Sarah Breedlove is one of many Christian philanthropists to change the world for the better. Learn about how the king of the candy industry honored God by supporting his community during the Great Depression.
Faith-filled entreprenuers and their deeds aren’t exclusive to history, either. Discover how one Chesapeake restaurant owner continued to obey the Lord in the face of a global pandemic.