The JP UP Date: Black History Month: Madame C.J. Walker

Andrew BarnesThe JP UP date

Number 261                      February 16, 2024                            St. Louis

February is Black History Month

Courtesy of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture #BlackHistoryMonth

Black History Month celebrates the rich heritage, resilience, and contributions of Black people throughout history. It emphasizes education, awareness, and celebration of Black culture and achievements, honoring trailblazers and icons who have made significant impacts in various fields. Rooted in the struggles against racial oppression and injustice, Black History Month reflects on the history and cultural legacy of the Black community, inspiring empowerment, unity, and advocacy for racial equity and social justice. It encompasses diverse experiences, traditions, and voices, highlighting the importance of recognizing and amplifying the contributions of Black individuals and communities to global culture and progress.

The influences of movements like Black Power and Black Lives Matter have further shaped the cultural landscape, inspiring activism, solidarity, and cultural expression within Black communities and beyond. These movements have raised awareness about systemic racism, police brutality, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice, emphasizing the importance of empowerment, resistance, and centering Black voices and experiences in discussions about social change. Famous figures of Black History Month, ranging from civil rights leaders to artists and athletes, have left a lasting impact on society, inspiring generations with their achievements, resilience, and advocacy for equality and justice, contributing to the ongoing legacy of Black excellence and empowerment.

Each week, we’ll highlight a narrative showcasing a local hero or notable figure who has made significant contributions to the advancement of African Americans.

This week, we take a look at Madam C.J. Walker. 

Although Madam C.J. Walker wasn’t born in St. Louis and didn’t spend her final days there, she was a longtime resident. Originally named Sarah Breedlove and born in Louisiana, she eventually made her way to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1889, seeking an escape from poverty. Working as a laundress and cook alongside her four barber brothers, she immersed herself in the community, joining the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she found inspiration from successful black figures. Despite facing financial struggles and personal challenges, her life took a pivotal turn in 1904 when she began using Annie Turbo Malone’s hair product and became one of Malone’s sales agents.

By 1905, she had relocated to Denver, Colorado, marrying Charles Joseph Walker and rebranding herself as “Madam C.J. Walker.” With a meager $1.25, she launched her own line of hair products, starting with “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” Initially aided by her husband in advertising and establishing a mail-order business, their partnership dissolved in 1910. Undeterred, Madam Walker moved to Indianapolis, where she established the Walker Manufacturing Company and championed economic independence for black women. She developed training programs known as the “Walker System” for her network of agents, ultimately employing thousands of African American men and women across the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean. Additionally, she founded the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association in 1917.

Gates Jr, Henry Louis. 100 amazing facts about the Negro. Pantheon, 2017

Fun Fact, she holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first woman to achieve millionaire status.

“Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist, Madam C.J. Walker rose from poverty in the South to become one of the wealthiest African American women of her time. She used her position to advocate for the advancement of black Americans and for an end to lynching.”  Debra Michaels, PhD, 2015

If you want to know more about this amazing woman, you can read more about her in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s book 100 Amazing Facts The Negro

or Check out the National Women’s History Museum Website here.


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Happy Birthday to Our Vibrant City of St. Louis, MO!

May your streets be filled with laughter, your skyline shine bright, and your spirit continue to thrive with each passing year. Here’s to many more years of prosperity, community, and joy in the Gateway to the West!

The Ethics Project to Show National Geographic’s Documentary on the First Black Astronauts!

On February 24th, 2024,The Ethics Project will be hosting an exclusive screening of National Geographic’s documentary “The Space Run: Untold Stories of the First Black Astronauts”.

Bring the teens in your life to ignite their curiosity and embark on a voyage of discovery. Don’t miss this opportunity to be inspired and empowered. Delve into the inspiring journeys of those who broke barriers and soared to the stars. This captivating documentary sheds light on their triumphs, challenges, and the resilience that propelled them to greatness.

Register today for free on Eventbrite! Click Here

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