I'd like to start this post by saying that I am by no means an expert in black history, but I really wanted to highlight how much of the industry, that I love, has been and still is shaped by black women.
Annie Malone: Early on Annie recognized that appearance especially hair was a defining factor is social status. In America, the natural texture of black women's hair wasn't respected or recognized as beautiful.
She began experimenting and created a line of products to promote scalp health and hair growth. After seeing success with her line of products, she started Poro College Company. She grew an empire by teaching other black women and men the "Poro System" for washing and caring for black hair providing a significant source of employment within her community and beyond.
During the time of Poro College she also expanded her products from hair care to cosmetics and skin care. Poro college also acted as a meeting place for black organizations who were denied access to other public spaces.
Annie became one of the wealthiest black women and donated generously to organizations within her community.
Madame CJ Walker: After early life stuggles of being born or formerly enslaved parents and then orphaned after their deaths, Madame CJ Walker didn't let those tragedies and trauma slow her down. She was educated at Poro College (Annie Malone's business) and was inspired to make and sell her own products.
She developed hair care products, skin care, and cosmetics. As her products gained interest she opened Leila College and began teaching her own methods of haircare creating employment for her community and beyond. Madame CJ walker is recognized as the first black self made female millionaire in America.
Sarah Spencer Washington: While studying advanced chemistry at Columbia University Sarah became interested in creating her own hair care, skin care and cosmetics. With the success of her products she launched Apex beauty schools eventually employing an estimated 500,000 people throughout her 11 beauty schools and stores.
But Sarah wasn't done. She expanded Apex into publishing and a laboratory drug company. She was recognized as the "Most Distinguished Businesswomen" at the 1939 worlds fair. Sarah knew wealth meant nothing if it wasn't shared so she donated much of her money throughout her community and set up an endowment for a 20 acre campground for black youths.
Christina Jenkins: Christina was working for a wig manufacturer and was trying to figure out a way to secure a wig to the hair and scalp safely and effectively. She created a new sew in weaving process that allowed black women to have any length or thickness they wanted and allowed that style to last longer.
The success of her technique resulted in patenting the technique and traveling all over to work to teach the technique. Today, many of Christina's sew in weave techniques are still used and have served as the basis for new techniques.