HIST 171, A. Field
Essay #1, D:
Who Was Madame C.J. Walker? (1867-1919)
As a woman involved in the business world, I have definitely heard of the incredible African American woman named Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made millionaire. Yet I had never studied her in or out of school, which leads me to this essay, a perfect way for me to discover more about the woman and about her incredible legacy.
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, in a cotton plantation in Delta, Louisiana; a child born of emancipated slave workers. Sadly, her parents died when she was just 6 years old, forcing her to move from home to home in her early years until she settled with her sister Louvenia and her husband (Gibbs, and Landis). After suffering abuse from Louvenia’s husband, she fled their home and, at 14, married Moses McWilliams ("Encyclopedia of World Biography"). She was happy in their marriage, and when she was 18, she gave birth to their daughter A’lelia. But tragedy still plagued her, and her husband died shortly after their daughter was born. While there is some speculation over how her husband Moses actually died, it is generally accepted that he was a victim of a race riot and was lynched in Mississippi (Gibbs, and Landis).
Now a widowed single mother, Sarah had nowhere to go home to, so she moved to St. Louis, Missouri and worked as a laundress and housekeeper for the majority of her daughter’s youth. Since Sarah did not have the means to send herself to school when she was younger, she began to attend public school at night. Her daughter excelled in school and was a great source of pride for Sarah in her life (“Encyclopedia of World Biography”).
St. Louis at the time was considered a hub for agricultural economic prosperity, given the rich soil of the land (Casey). This coupled with the steadily increasing population of immigrants and emancipated or American born Africans pushed St. Louis forward as a... [continues]
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