Famous Black Hoosiers: Madam CJ Walker

 Bailey, 4th Grade Student

Bailey, 4th Grade Student

Written by Sylvia Denice

While Madam CJ Walker is one of the better-known black female Hoosiers, my fourth graders are unfailingly inspired by her story every year.  This year, Bailey played the role of Madam CJ Walker in our Famous Hoosier Wax Museum.  I recently sat down with Bailey to recollect her Famous Hoosier Wax Museum research and presentation experience.  Madam CJ Walker “was famous for her products that she made,” Bailey explained.  “Her products helped citizens in her town with hair.”

“Madam CJ Walker had hair loss,” Bailey elaborated.  Madam CJ Walker’s scalp ailment led her to create a line of hair products for African-American hair in 1905.  Her business led her to become one of the first self-made American millionaires.  “Her products helped others’ hair to look better and to make it easier to do things with it,” Bailey added.  When asked about Madam CJ Walker’s impact on society, Bailey readily replied, “Madam CJ Walker didn’t really have to do this for the world.  She really could have just done it for herself; but, then no one else would have had these things to help them with their hair!”

Bailey was motivated to go above and beyond the rubric in her research.  “I put a lot of work into this.  I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to see how she had done what she had done,” she explained.  “We were driving around downtown, and my dad and I saw the Walker Theater.  I told my dad I wanted to go there someday.  He said, ‘OK!  We can go tomorrow!’” Bailey recollected.   After visiting the Walker Theater, Bailey enthusiastically shared her experience with our classroom community during one of our daily morning meetings.  “I felt like I could teach younger students and students who haven’t learned or heard of Madam CJ Walker,” she explained.  Her visit to the Walker Theater helped her to “learn and understand the way Madam CJ Walker helped the planet with her products.”  After completing her presentation for her peers, Bailey recalled, “I felt really proud of myself.  I felt like I’d done something to help make black history better.”

“Madam CJ Walker and any other black women or men, inspire me because I know that I can do anything to change the world,” Bailey shared.  When asked what Black History Month means to her, Bailey responded, “It means to make a change in the world and to always remember the people that have changed the world.”  Bailey wishes for the community to remember Madam CJ Walker’s contributions she created “with her own tools that she made at home.”  Inspired by Madam CJ Walker, Bailey would also like readers to know “everyone in the world can change the world and the day by just one simple thing - by doing something you would like to do, and doing something you would love to do.”