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Iman  

Caryn E. Neumann

model and cosmetics-company founder, was born Iman Abdul Majid in Mogadishu, Somalia, the second of five children born to Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born Arabic teacher and diplomat, and Marian Abdul Majid, a Somalia-born midwife. “Iman,” a name generally given to a boy, means “to have faith in Allah.” As the first girl born to her father's family in three generations, Iman appeared as a gift from Allah.

Very much a “daddy's girl,” Iman worshipped her father. A fighter against sexism, Mohamed adhered to the theory that girls should be treated well at home to enable them to surmount any restrictions that society might try to place upon them. Accordingly, Iman was sent to boarding school because her father felt that such an environment offered girls the best education.

To his delight Iman did well in her studies of Arabic Italian geography and mathematics She eventually left boarding school ...

Article

Noliwe Rooks

entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Annie Minerva Turnbo on a farm in Metropolis, Illinois, the tenth of eleven children of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, both farmers. Robert and Isabella owned the land they farmed and were able to provide comfortably for themselves and their children. After her parents died of yellow fever in 1877, Turnbo went to live with an older sister in Peoria, Illinois.

As a young woman Turnbo grew dissatisfied with the hair grooming methods then in use by African American women which often involved the use of goose fat soap and harsh chemicals for straightening purposes Stronger products to straighten naturally curly hair generally damaged the hair follicles or scalp One of the methods recommended by such products advised users to wash their hair and lay it out flat while using a hot flatiron to apply the solutions Even washed and laid out ...

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed the materialization of the black beauty culture industry and the emergence of the black female beauty industry mogul. Annie Turnbo Malone, while not as well known as her contemporary, Madam C. J. Walker, pioneered many of the methods and goals of this global enterprise and transformed the role of African American women in business.

Annie Turnbo Malone was a child of the Reconstruction Era. Her father, Robert Turnbo, fought for the Union in the Civil War while her mother, Isabella Cook Turnbo fled their native Kentucky with their two children Eventually the family reunited in Metropolis Illinois and the couple had nine more children Annie was second youngest Robert and Isabella Turnbo died while Annie was young and her elder sisters raised her After moving to Peoria Illinois Annie attended high school where she acquired a fondness for chemistry which combined ...

Article

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 ...

Article

A'Lelia Perry Bundles

entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta (Madison Parish), Louisiana, the fifth of six children of Minerva to Anderson and Owen Breedlove Sr., sharecroppers and former slaves.

Orphaned at seven years old, she had almost no formal education during her early life. Around 1878—when racial violence was at its most virulent in her rural Louisiana parish—she moved with her elder sister, Louvenia Breedlove Powell, across the Mississippi River to Vicksburg. At fourteen Sarah married Moses McWilliams, about whom almost nothing is known, to escape what she called the “cruelty” of her brother-in-law Jesse Powell. Around 1887 when the McWilliamses' daughter Lelia, later known as A'Lelia Walker, was two years old, Moses died. Although some sources say he was lynched, there is no credible documentation to justify such a claim.

To support herself and her daughter, Sarah McWilliams ...

Article

A'Lelia Perry Bundles

“I got myself a start by giving myself a start,” Madam C. J. Walker often said of her unlikely personal transformation from an uneducated washerwoman into a hair care industry pioneer during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Born Sarah Breedlove on a Delta, Louisiana, cotton plantation near the banks of the Mississippi River, she was the fifth of Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove’s six surviving children and the first freeborn Breedlove sibling. Her parents had been slaves on Robert W. Burney’s Madison Parish farm, which had been commandeered by General Ulysses S. Grant as a Civil War battle staging area during the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg. Both parents died before Sarah’s eighth birthday.

Left orphans, Sarah and her younger brother Solomon moved with her married elder sister Louvenia Breedlove Powell across the river to Vicksburg around 1878 after a succession of failed cotton ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Kahlil Gross

entrepreneur, was born in Berkley, Virginia, to Joshua Phillips and Ellen Douglass. At a time when Jim Crow was being established throughout the South and education for African Americans in the public school systems was made separate and clearly unequal, stemming from the Supreme Court's ruling on Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips made sure that their daughter received the best education afforded to her. Sarah attended public schools in Berkley, and then went on to attend Lincoln Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk Mission College for Negroes in Norfolk, Virginia. At some point, she went on to do advance work in chemistry at Columbia University.

Around the age of sixteen, Sarah became a dressmaker. Her parents encouraged her to become a school teacher, however, in 1913 at age twenty four Sarah decided to pursue an entrepreneurial path opening a small hair dressing ...

Article

Richlyn Faye Goddard

Madame Sarah Spencer Washington started a cosmetics empire that turned her into one of America’s first black millionaires. A dressmaker from 1905 to 1913, she was then a hairdresser from 1914 to 1915, and a manufacturer of beauty preparations from 1919 until her death.

Born in Berkley, Virginia, to Joshua and Ellen (Mother Spencer) Phillips, Sarah Spencer received her early education in the public schools of Berkley and attended the Lincoln Prep School in Philadelphia. As a young woman, she walked seven miles a day from her home in Berkley to attend school. She graduated from the Norfolk Mission College. Her first job was in the Norfolk printing office of the Elk leader Finley Wilson. She also later studied business administration at Columbia University and described herself as a devout Christian Scientist and a full-fledged Republican. She admired Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown ...