What is Madam C. J. Walker known for?
I first read about Madam C.J. Walker as a teenager in college and was told that she was the first self-made female millionaire in America, was black, was a philanthropist, and an activist. I was very proud of her and many of the women in my university loved to give presentations about her. Over 25 years later, I got to watch a Netfilx movie about her, which was titled “Self Made”, and I was interested in how she survived her struggles to make it. After watching the Netflix movie, I was proud of her success, but was sadden by how many lives she destroyed in the process of becoming a millionaire and how her type or vision of feminism or activism still affects the black family and black community negatively today.
Who were the men that helped Madam C. J. Walker to succeed?
According to the Netflix movie, Madam C. J. Walker was poor and had low self-esteem because of her hair and weight, but her husband, Charles Joseph Walker, stood by her, gave up his job for her business, and convinced her to move elsewhere to establish her hair business. Charles Joseph Walker was determined to do any job as long as Madam C. J. Walker was able to make and market her hair products. Madam C. J. Walker’s son-in-law, who wanted to open a Juke-joint business with his wife (Madam’s daughter), went along with his wife to assist Madam C. J. Walker in her hair business before moving on to open their own Juke-joint. Booker T. Washington was also instrumental in her path to success, but was interested in only men presenting their family business (culture of the time), but she still was able to use Booker T. Washington’s platform to solicit money from investors to make her hair business a success.
What could Madam C. J. Walker had done differently?
Assuming the Netflix movie was close to the truth, it showed that Madam C. J. Walker’s inability to manage a healthy relationship with the men in her life and was unable to maintain them as a productive team for her business. She could have become a millionaire sooner or even a billionaire if she had these qualities. Aside from the fact that Madam C. J. Walker married three times before she eventually died at the young age of 51 and not one husband lived with her for up to 10 years, she could have used Charles Joseph Walker more effectively in her business. Charles Joseph Walker was obviously good with numbers, was intelligent, and good with speech, so she should have allowed him to speak to the male investors as well as presented her hair business at Booker T. Washington’s platform without any form of disrespect and would probably have received even more investments. The son-in-law was good with paperwork and was a hard worker, but instead she reduced the future entrepreneur to a mere janitor.
What can the black family learn from Madam C. J. Walker?
The analysis of the Netflix movie shows that because of Madam C. J. Walker’s management style or her feminist quest for women power at all cost turned Charles Joseph Walker into an alcoholic and an adulterer because he felt neglected and undervalued by a wife he gave up his very own career for. Madam C. J. Walker turned her son-in-law into a traitor and an undeserving husband because he was marginalized and relegated as a man to the extent that his own wife now felt that a relationship with another woman was more deserving of her. About a century later, it seems Madam C. J. Walker’s type of feminism has influenced many black women in the United States to pursue power, career, and money at all cost even if it leads to the delinquency of their children and fatherless (manless) homes. There seems to be an urgent need to redefine success as both genders living together again, rising children together again, and working hard as well as strategically to make good incomes, even if they never become millionaires.