Netflix is honoring the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first woman to make a personal fortune of $1 million at the time of her death in 1919.

SpringHill Entertainment and Wonder Street, in partnership with Warner Bros. Television, are releasing a Netflix original Miniseries named, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.

The mini-series are of four parts and based on A’Lelia Bundles’ book On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. The character of the top-earning Afro-American entrepreneur is being portrayed by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. Other cast includes Tiffany Haddish, Carmen Ejogo, Blair Underwood, and Garrett Morris.

The mini-series is set to be released on 20 March 2020 following the 100th anniversary of the death of First Self-Made Millionaire American Women, Madam C.J. Walker.

Who Was Madam C.J. Walker?

Before she became a self-made beauty mogul, feminist entrepreneur, activist, and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker, she was Sarah Breedlove, born on 23 December 1867 in Delta, Louisiana, the United States to slaves Owen Breedlove and Minerva Breedlove.

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Her mother passed away in 1874, then her father the following year. At the age of seven, she was an orphan.

At the age of 14, she wanted to escape the oppression of her sister and brother in law. In 1882, she married Moses McWilliams, and by 1885, she was a mother of a daughter A’Lelia McWilliams.

Her husband died in 1887, leaving 20 years old Sarah and two years old A’Lelia. Sarah later exchanged her vows with John Davis in 1894; however, her second husband left her in around 1903.

In 1905, she moved to Denver, Colorado, and next year, she married a newspaper advertising salesman, Charles Joseph Walker. With that marriage, she was officially Madam C.J. Walker.

Although the duo divorced in 1912, A’Lelia McWilliams adopted her stepfather’s surname.


Initially, she worked as a washerwoman earning $1.50 a day. Later, she started working as a commission agent selling products for Annie Malone.

According to verified sources, during the 1880s, severe dandruff and baldness was a common problem among black women of the era. It was happening due to skin disorders, the use of harsh products like lye, poor diet, and frequent bathing.

Madam C.J. Walker ProductImage Source: P Interest
Madam C.J. Walker Product

Image Source: P Interest

At the time, she was working as the commission agent of an African-American hair-care entrepreneur and owner of the Poro Company, Annie Malone. While working for Malone, Walker learned from Malone and developed her own product line.

A controversy also rose, after Malone accused Sarah of stealing her formula while working under her.

Amid those allegations, Walker started as an independent retailer and hairdresser of cosmetic creams.

Rise Of Madam C.J. Walker

Walker started her cosmetics business in 1906. Her first product was a scalp treatment that used petrolatum and sulfur to heal scalp disease and to grow hair.

The product also softened the hair with a lotion, Glossine, and straightened the hair with a hot metal comb, which is speculated to be her invention but is not.

Mr. Walker, who was also her business partner, advised Sarah to sell her products door to door and to teach other black women how to groom and style their hair. She added Madam to her name and began selling her new “Walker System” door-to-door.

Madam C.J. Walker with her Walker AgentsImage Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Madam C.J. Walker with her Walker Agents

Image Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Soon, after her first product gained popularity, she soon added other cosmetic products to her business. The products were very successful, and she soon had many saleswomen, called “Walker Agents,” who sold her products door to door and through salons.

In 1917, her agents came together in one of the nation’s first convention of businesswomen. After briefly settling in Pittsburgh, she established the headquarters for Madam C.J. Walker Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1910.

Her products were at great use from 1911 to 1922, which eventually made her the first African-American black millionaire.

How Did Madam C.J. Walker Die?

Madam C.J. Walker died on 25 May 1919 at the age of 51 due to kidney failure and hypertension. Her tomb is in Woodlawn Cemetry, the Bronx, New York City.

Madam C.J. Walker graveyardImage Source: honorable and impressionable
Madam C.J. Walker graveyard

Image Source: honorable and impressionable

At the time of her death, she was considered to be the wealthiest Afro-American female and the first female self-made millionaire in the United States of America with a wealth of around $600 thousand ($8 million after adjusting inflation in 2020).