Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) was a leading African-American businesswoman in the 1910s, and a pioneer in the beauty industry. Her products not only promised “good hair” and a “smooth, clear complexion” but also success for black women, a narrative that reflected Walker’s own ambition and remarkable rise as the first free-born American citizen in a family of slaves. In addition to running a business so successful that she was America’s wealthiest African-American women at the time of her death, Walker founded and supported beauty colleges, which offered financial independence to African-American “hair culturists.” Her activities encompassed not only the production and marketing of beauty products, but also philanthropic support of African-American civil rights causes.
The James Weldon Johnson Collection at the Beinecke Library includes printed material, ephemera, photographs, and realia relating to Madam C.J. Walker and the African-American beauty industry of the early 20th century. (LC)
African-American Beauty Industry — Collection Highlights:
Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. 1924 year book and almanac.
Call Number: JWJ Zan W1505.923Y
Madam C. J. Walker beauty manual: a thorough treatise covering all branches of beauty culture, Indianapolis, [ca. 1925]
Call Number: JWJ Zan W1505 928M
Three printing blocks relating to the African American businesswoman, Madam C.J. Walker. [ca. 1920’s]
Call Number: JWJ Zan W1505 920M
By-laws of the local bodies national beauty culturists and Benevolent Association of Madam C. J. Walker Agents, Indianapolis, IN, 1927
Uncataloged Acquisition: 36213
National Beauty Culturists’ League (U.S.), Ritual for the local bodies of the National Beauty Culturists’ and Benevolent Association of Madam C. J. Walker Agents Incorporated, [Indianapolis], [ca. 1920]
Call number: JWJ Zan W1505 +N920R
A can of Madam C. J. Walker’s wonderful hair & scalp preparation [1920s]
Uncataloged Acquisition: 43101
Panoramic photograph of the 10th annual national convention, Madam C. J. Walker agents, Aug. 9 – 10 – 11 1926. Kansas City, MO.
Uncataloged Acquisition: 2010.jwj.36127
Photographs of Madam C. J. Walker and others, 1925-1930
Uncataloged Acquisitions: 2010.ycal.36537, 2010.ycal.36538
Abstract of title prepared by Lake County Abstract Co., Baldwin, Michigan, 
Uncataloged Acquisition: 35957
Madame C. J. Walker College of Beauty Culture, Kansas City, 1946 (Published by the students of the Walker College of Beauty Culture)
Call Number: Zc26 +946ma
The Black American achievement posters: One of 20 broadside posters portraying outstanding African American persons and events, including Madam C.J. Walker.
Call Number: BrSides 2008 18
Collection of original Valmor Products Co. labels, [1920’s-1930’s]
Uncataloged Acquisition: 36222
Display placards that promote fashions and hairstyles for African American women created for the grand opening of the Negro Industrial Fair at the headquarters of the Greater New York Coordinating Committee for Employment at 132 West 125th Street, Harlem, New York, June 24, 1939, which coincided with the New York World’s Fair. The placards include hand-painted lettering and halftone photographs of African American women, as well as human hair samples that demonstrate hair coloring tints produced by the Clairol Company.
Call Number: JWJ MSS 47
Image: “Beauty and success! Both may be yours, so easily, there’s no excuse for not having them …”