Walker, Sarah (“Madame C. J.”)
Sarah Walker was born in Delta, Louisiana, to indigent former slaves Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She grew up in poverty on the Burney plantation in Delta, working in the cotton fields from sunrise to sunset. Uneducated in her youth, she learned as an adult to read and write. At fourteen, she married Moses McWilliams who was reportedly killed by a white lynch mob two years after their daughter A'Lelia's birth in 1885.
Walker worked as a domestic until she took several risks as an entrepreneur in black woman s hair care products To meet the needs of women who did not have running water supplies or equipment Walker created a hot comb with specially spaced teeth to soften or straighten black hair as well as her Wonderful Hair Grower for women who had experienced hair loss through improper care Business differences ended her marriage to C J ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.