We can barely contain our excitement at the announcement of a Netflix series on the untold and highly relevant story of black hair care pioneer and mogul, Madam C.J. Walker, an icon and role model in the black community.

The eight-part series will tell the story of how she overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, highlight her epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire. The series is based on the book On Her Own Ground, by A’Lelia Bundles.

Madam CJ Walker
On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Bundles

Ms. Walker was born in Louisiana in 1867 to two former slaves. She was orphaned at seven and married at 14. She washed clothes for $1.50 a day, until the birth of a daughter motivated her to seek a better life.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1917, she said: “As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’”

No doubt this motherly instinct spurred her on, because Ms Walker then ventured into the hair-care industry when there were hardly any products for women of colour. By 1906 she had started her own business, creating a popular line of hair straighteners and other hair care merchandise, earning a fortune and the accolade of being the first black self-made millionaire, eventually going on to embrace activism and fighting for racial equality.

Madam CJ Walker
Octavia Spencer

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer who is starring as Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam CJ Walker, is no stranger to playing strong characters, having earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in The Help, as well as a role in the critically acclaimed Hidden Figures.

Madam CJ Walker

Ms Spencer will also serve as an executive producer on the series, which doesn’t have a release date yet.

 

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