Celebrating Black History

Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy lives on through new hair care line

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Just over 100 years ago, Madam C.J. Walker started building up her hair care empire.

Madam Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, worked hard to create a line of hair care products for Black women. She was so successful that by the early 1900s, she was known as “the first Black woman millionaire in America.”

Despite her success, Walker’s hair care products were eventually discontinued.

Now, the products are back on store shelves with a new look but the same name.

The return of the “Madam by Madam CJ Walker” line of products is the result of hard work of A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great granddaughter.

Bundles says the return of the hair care line, as well as the recent surge of interest in Walker’s life and career — including a recent Netflix film — has been her plan for 50 years.

“I think this is Madam C.J. Walker’s moment,” Bundles said.

Bundles says Walker wanted her products to have a positive impact on the health of women’s hair.

“She was really focused on women having healthy scalps so that there would be a great environment for their hair to grow and for them to have healthy hair,” Bundles said. “And that was the DNA of what we are trying to achieve. We have Madam Walker’s original intent, but with a century’s worth of research and development and science and technology. So, we’re taking her idea, revolutionizing it, and updating it for the 21st century.”

Bundles says more Black women are embracing their natural hair textures, despite continuing hair discrimination.

“The goal is that women of color should be able to express themselves, and they should be able to wear their hair the way it grows,” Bundles said. “When we see women who are federal judges and women who are CEOs of corporations…wearing their hair natural, it does set a standard.”

Although Madam Walker built her business empire more than 100 years ago, her legacy is still alive in Indianapolis at the Madam C.J. Walker Building and the Madam Walker Legacy Center on Indiana Avenue. In recent years, the facility has undergone a massive renovation. The grand reopening of the Madam Walker Legacy Center is scheduled for June.

Madam Walker’s home in New York was recently named a historic site and will become a gathering place for female entrepreneurs.