Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2007 (Revised April 2011)

Madam C.J. Walker: Entrepreneur, Leader, and Philanthropist

by Nancy F. Koehn, Anne Dwojeski, William Grundy, Erica Helms and Katherine Miller


Madam C. J. Walker, who has been credited as the first self-made African-American woman millionaire, created a hair-care empire after years spent as a laundress in St. Louis, Missouri. Decades before the Civil Rights movement, her company gave employment to thousands of African-American women and marketed its products around the world. Madam Walker was active in the social and political causes of her day, and used her position as a successful entrepreneur to promote philanthropy and self-advancement in the African-American community.

Keywords: Leadership; Business History; Race; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Entrepreneurship; Personal Development and Career; Gender; Giving and Philanthropy; Saint Louis;


Koehn, Nancy F., Anne Dwojeski, William Grundy, Erica Helms, and Katherine Miller. "Madam C.J. Walker: Entrepreneur, Leader, and Philanthropist." Harvard Business School Case 807-145, March 2007. (Revised April 2011.)