Name: Madame C. J. Walker
Basics: Born on a plantation in Louisiana, Walker suffered from a scalp ailment that resulted in hair loss. This prompted her to create a line of African-American hair products in 1905. The line was such a success that she became the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. She didn’t just sit on her money though. Becoming involved in the Harlem scene, Walker donated her money to educational scholarships and homes for the elderly. Her philanthropy easily matched her business sense.
Why I Chose Her: In my mind, she is the prototypical black entrepreneur. I’m also left to wonder how many people might have criticized her for not giving enough back. I see many people doing that to celebrities in the black community, not realizing those celebrities are putting a great deal of their money towards empowering the community. Speaking out on issues is important, but I think putting your money into it is just as important. Words can spark change, but money keeps it going.