Sarah Breedlove was born to former slave parents in 1867, just after the American Civil War. She overcame poverty, illiteracy, sexism, and racism in the Reconstruction Era to establish herself as a successful entrepreneur. Her husband and both of her parents had died by the time she was twenty, and she was left alone to support herself and her daughter. Breedlove learned how to make shampoos and pomades for a living. With those skills, and reportedly with only $1.25, Breedlove built herself a haircare empire that became the biggest employer of African American women of the time. Her company provided many black women with a rare job opportunity to escape the inhumanely low wages and violence they experienced under most other available jobs. Breedlove additionally used her wealth to become a philanthropist, working within the black community to support schools, orphanages, colleges, and the NAACP.
To learn more about Sarah Breedlove, please come and visit our current 1619 Exhibit, which celebrates the history of African American women like Sarah Breedlove.
For additional information about Sarah Breedlove, please access the links below: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/walker_hi.html