Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919) was an entrepreneur, civil rights activist and philanthropist who created specialized hair products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.
After developing a scalp disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair, Walker invented a line of African-American hair care products in 1905. She promoted her products by traveling around the country giving lecture-demonstrations and eventually established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture cosmetics. Her savvy business sense led her to be one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.
In 1912, Walker addressed an annual gathering of the National Negro Business League (NNBL) where she declared, "I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there, I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground."
Walker founded philanthropies that included educational scholarships and donations to homes for the elderly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Conference on Lynching and other organizations focused on improving the lives of African-Americans.
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