The Bold Faced Blog™

April 07, 2019

Celebration! The 21st Annual NCBW Madam C.J. Walker Luncheon

Posted 241 days ago by Sheila Ellian Lewis

For the last 20 years, the Oakland/Bay Area Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (NCBW), has celebrated the life and legacy of Madam C.J. Walker. Cathy Adams, Founder of the Oakland/Bay Area Chapter of the NCBW anticipates another beautiful event and shares, “Over the years, the Madam C.J. Walker Luncheon & Empowerment Forum has changed and impacted many lives. The stories we share at the luncheon are our stories. As long as we continue to raise our voices together as women, we will be stronger together.”

Madam Walker has been listed in past editions of the Guinness Book of World Records as the first self-made American woman millionaire, who neither inherited her money or married someone who was a millionaire. While it is impossible to document with a certainty that this is the case, at the time of her death Madam Walker’s estate had an estimated value of $600,000 to $700,000 (equivalent to approximately $6 million to $7 million in today’s dollars). 

Family Historian, A’Lelia Bundles, captured her great-great-grandmother’s life in the edited bio below. You may read the full bio here and read more about this inspiring entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist here.

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, this daughter of former slaves transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into on of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made women entrepreneurs.

Orphaned at age seven she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She and her older sister, Louvenia, survived by working in the cotton fields of Delta and nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. At 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape abouse from her cruel brother-in-law.

After the 1885 birth of her only daughter, Lelia, and the death of her husband in 1887, Sarah moved to St. Louis to join her 4 brothers who had established themselves as barbers. Working for as little as $1.50 a day, she managed to save enough money to educate her daughter. Friendships with other black women who were members of St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the National Association of Colored Women exposed her to a new way of viewing the world.

During the 1890, suffering from a scalp aliment that caused her to lose most of her hair, Sarah experimented with many homemade remedies and store-bought products, including those made by Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur. After moving to Denver in 1905, she married her 3rd husband, Charles Joseph Walker, a St. Louis newspaperman. After changing her name to “Madam” C. J. Walker, she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.

In 1908, she moved to Pittsburgh where she opened Lelia College to train Walker “hair culturists and by 1910, she had settled in Indianapolis where she built a factory, hair and manicure salon and another training school. Within a year, she grabbed national headlines in the black press when she contributed $1,000 to the building fund of the “colored” YMCA in Indianapolis.

In 1913, while traveling to Central American and the Caribbean to expand her business, her daughter moved into a fabulous new Harlem townhouse and Walker Salon, designed by black architect Vertner Tandy. Walker joined her daughter in 1916 while the manufacturing continued in Indianapolis. Once in Harlem, she quickly became involved in Harlem’s social and political life, taking special interest in the NAACP’s anti-lynching movement to which she contributed $5,000

As her business continued to grow, Madam Walker organized her agents into local and state clubs. Her Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 must have been one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country. She used these gatherings not only to reward her agents for their business success, but to encourage their political activism as well.

When she died at her estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, she had helped create the role of the 20th Century, self-made American businesswoman; established herself as a pioneer of the modern black hair-care and cosmetics industry; and set standard in the African American community for corporate and community giving.

Join this year’s celebration on Friday, April 19 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. The event starts at 8:30 PM and includes 2 morning panels: Power & Influencers: A Conversation with My Younger Self and Curiosity in Action: Innovation for Tomorrow. The panels will be moderated by Sheila Lewis, CEO Ashton212 with panel guests:


Of this year's event, Frances H. Cohen, Director, Board of Directors, NCBW says, “My goal is that you all will leave today with the determination to know that you are the power, the active curiosity catalyst and change agents with the knowledge, common sense, and know how to control your own destiny in this new frontier of robotics artificial intelligence and automation.

Tags: Cathy Adams Madam C.J. Walker National Coalition of 100 Black Women

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