THE BARBERSHOP AND SALON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program is dedicated to reclaim the markets that belong to the African American culture. The fact that African Americans have lost control of hair care products they consume is troubling in light of the illustrious history of Madam C.J. Walker. Let’s take a closer look.
Sarah Breedlove (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919), known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country, “the world’s most successful female entrepreneur of her time,” and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.
Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the arts. Villa Lewaro, Walker’s lavish estate in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, served as a social gathering place for the African American community.
Activism and philanthropy
As Walker’s wealth and notoriety increased, she became more vocal about her views. Profits from her business significantly impacted Walker’s contributions to her political and philanthropic interests. In 1918 the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC) honored Walker for making the largest individual contribution to help preserve Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia house. Prior to her death in 1919, Walker pledged $5,000 (the equivalent of about $65,000 in 2012) to the NAACP’s anti-lynching fund. At the time it was the largest gift from an individual that the NAACP had ever received. Walker bequeathed nearly $100,000 to orphanages, institutions, and individuals; her will directed two-thirds of future net profits of her estate to charity. Read more.
The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program’s Economic Initiative will use the model set forth by Madam C.J. Walker to use the profits from hair care products to address, in this case, health disparities among African Americans.