Madame C. J. Walker (1867-1919)

Madame_CJ_WalkerMadame C. J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) was America’s first Black millionaire businesswoman. Mixing one concoction of oils after another in a washtub, she finally created a hairdressing formula that influenced the hair industry and changed the looks of black women.

In 1905, she invented and patented a straightening comb, which when heated and used with her hairdressing formula changed tightly curled, lusterless hair into shining smooth hair. She traveled alone for two years demonstrating her “Walker Method.”

By 1919, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company stretched an entire city block and provided employment for over 3,000 people. At the time of her death, she had acquired a vast empire in excess of one million dollars.

Oprah Winfrey

oprah-winfrey Oprah Winfrey is the first African American billionaire. She owns a production company, Harpo (Oprah spelled backwards).

As a child, Oprah moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then back to Nashville. She was crowned Miss Black Tennessee at the age of nineteen. After this accomplishment, Oprah went on to become the youngest and the first black to anchor news in Nashville, TN.

Later, when she moved to Chicago, she hosted a talk show named “AM Chicago.” After a year, the show became the number one talk show, outranking the Phil Donahue Show in 1984. The show was expanded to one hour and became known as the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her show reaches approximately 15 million viewers each day. Oprah branched out into the acting field in 1985 by starring in The Color Purple. She received an Oscar nomination for her role.

In January 2011,  OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) debuted as a television channel on approximately 80 million homes, another first for Winfrey.