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The First Female Self-Made Millionaire of Any Race was Black Entrepreneur, Madam C.J. Walker

Black Women in Business

The First Female Self-Made Millionaire of Any Race was Black Entrepreneur, Madam C.J. Walker

By Tatenda Gwaambuka via

Born to freed slaves working as sharecroppers, Madam C.J. Walker had odds stacked against her. She was orphaned at 7, married at 14 and widowed at 20. However, by the time she died, she was a millionaire.

In 1986, then Revlon executive Irving Bottner was quoted in the October 13th Newsweek magazine as saying, “In the next couple of years, the Black-owned businesses will disappear. They’ll all be sold to White companies.”  He added, “We are accused of taking business away from the black companies, but black consumers buy quality products – too often their black brothers didn’t do them any good.”

He had stirred a hornet’s nest. Reverend Jesse Jackson led a boycott against Revlon demanding several concessions. In February 1987, the Reverend’s Operation PUSH social activist organization led a mock Revlon funeral in protest declaring the death of the hair-care giant. Ayana D. Byrd and Lori Tharps, in Hair Story, explain, “…African-American protesters made it clear they would not stand by and allow “the Man” to take over an industry that had been a source of pride, achievement, and economic empowerment since the beginning of the Black experience in America.” It is this very industry that had made the larger than life African-American industry captains like Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) and Annie Turnbo Malone. 

Madam C.J. Walker was born to freed slaves in Delta Louisianna on the 23rd of December in 1867. When she was 7, Walker lost her parents and at 14, she got married. Her motivation was to escape the abuse of a cruel brother in law. However, by 20, she was …

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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What Does It Mean To Be “Black Butterfly Beautiful”

The image of the butterfly has come to define the many expressions of the feminine black consciousness and for a good reason. The butterfly is the perfect articulation of the exquisite beauty of nature. Whether tiny or large, brightly colored or more subdued, the butterfly’s allure is undeniable. Each one displays its own unique patterns and hues, and no one species outshines any other.

Similarly, there is no one ideal image of a black woman -- each is gorgeous in her right. All African-Americans share a glorious history of struggle and perseverance that has funneled into the modern black renaissance. And, like the graceful butterfly, the awakened black woman exemplifies the dazzling beauty of that cultural evolution.

Flying High

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