Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919) was a successful entrepreneur, businesswoman, philanthropist, and social and political activist during a time when both African Americans and women were not common in the world of business. In 1906, she started her own hair product business specifically for African American women, and over the next ten years, the company expanded rapidly, moving its headquarters to Harlem in 1916. Walker was the first self-made African American female millionaire and used her wealth to fund the NAACP and anti-lynching legislation. Her company remained in business until 1981.
Featured above are Madam C.J. Walker’s Glossine hair paste and an advertisement for her products that are now part of the NYSM History Collection (H-2010.45.30-31).