Style: Image and Identity

Madam C.J. Walker’s “Wonderful Hair Grower

Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.

Hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker was first exposed to the hair care business in the late 1880s when she moved to St. Louis, Missouri. She worked for Annie Turnbo Malone, an African American hair care entrepreneur and owner of the Poro Company, selling her hair care products for about a year and a half in the city.

After experimenting with her own ingredients, she began marketing her products across the country. Her philosophy of “hair culture” grew to high demand among African Americans. In 1911, she incorporated the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company and began recruiting sales agents in major cities across the nation. Her efforts led to the creation of both the Madam C.J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America and the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association in 1917. Walker’s efforts provided African American women steady employment as well as a career they and their communities could find pride in.

Exlplore more from Madame C.J. Walker objects from the Collection and learn about other African American entrepreneurs in our exhibition, Making A Way Out Of No Way