Every ethnic group has a mythology... Until 'Roots'... there was nothing in the popular culture to refute the paragraph in elementary school history class that said, 'Slaves picked the cotton, were happy and life wasn't so bad.'
You know the AME Church has a history of empowering black people and having an international outlook. So it was the women of the church who began to give Sarah Breedlove an image of herself as something other than an illiterate washerwoman, and she wanted to make her life better, and her daughter's life better.
I think a lot of times, the historical piece is often a way to comment on the present.
Many people have told me that once they learn of Madam Walker's accomplishments they are surprised, even embarrassed, that they have never heard of her. But they shouldn't be. Her extraordinary story was simply omitted from the history books.
For many years Madam Walker was just a little footnote in history. As a woman who made haircare products, she was really consigned to something trivial.
Through the years, Madam Walker has certainly become a staple of anything that has to do with black history, women's history and entrepreneurship.
I've found that once people are introduced to Madam Walker's story, they are inspired but also perplexed about why she was omitted from their history lessons.
We all draw inspiration from women whose names make the headlines and whose stories are in the history books, but often our greatest inspiration comes from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, and friends.
I'd seen how 'Green Book' had been a box-office hit, but left pianist Don Shirley's family feeling betrayed because his life and relationships had been distorted.
There are two national historic landmarks: the Madam Walker Legacy Center in Indianapolis and the Madam C.J. Walker House in Irvington, New York.