Walker, Madam C. J.
- Theresa Leininger-Miller
entrepreneur, hair-care industry pioneer, political activist, and philanthropist. Many newspapers called Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, the first female African American self-made millionaire. The daughter of the former slaves Owen Breedlove and Minerva Breedlove, Walker was the first member of her family born free on the Burney family cotton plantation in Delta, Louisiana. She and her five siblings were raised in poverty on farms there and in Mississippi. Walker was orphaned by age seven, and she had little more than three months of formal education. She lived with her older sister Louvenia and her sister's cruel husband in Vicksburg, Mississippi, until 1882, when she married Moses McWilliams at the age of fourteen. Their only child Lelia (who renamed herself A'Lelia in 1922 for unknown reasons) was born in 1885. After Moses McWilliams died in about 1888 Walker moved with her daughter to Saint ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.