A significant number of African-Americans in the 20th century invested their efforts in the participation of the social and political revolutions that ultimately changed the racial perceptions towards black Americans. Each activist and community participant had different approaches of impacting revolution to the American society, especially regarding ways the society perceived African-Americans. One of such prominent figures was Madame C.J Walker, born of slave parents and later turned to be a successful businesswoman (Bundles, 2008). Madame C.J Walker was arguably one of the most influential black women of the 20th century. Her ideologies and perceptions drew a significant following from his fellow black men and women. As a successful businesswoman, Walker dedicated most of her life to social and political issues that rocked the United States during the early 20th century (Bundles, 2008). This research paper attempts to investigate the concepts such as personal development, integrity, responsible stewardship, community and excellence. In addition, the paper investigates the ways in which Madame C.J Walker participated towards the realization of the above concepts.
Biography of Madame C.J Walker
Prior to her change of name, Madame C.J Walker went by the name Sarah Breedlove. She was born during December 23, 1867 in Louisiana. Her parents were freed slaves who depended on working on the cotton plantation for their daily upkeep. In this struggling childhood, Walker had to spend much of her time working in the cotton fields. His troubled childhood compelled her to get married at the age of 14. It was during the 1890s that the life of Madam C.J Walker saw a revolution (Krohn, 2007). She developed a scalp problem that made her lose most of her hair. In order to find a cure to the ailment, Walker tried a lot of commercial and homemade curative products. It was during this time that she became a saleswoman for one of the famous beauty products line; the Annie Malone based in Denver. During 1905, Walker got married to Charles Joseph Walker, and together they established a business that dealt with the treatment of scalp and later expanded to include salons, hair treatments and other hair treatment services. In 1910, Madam C.J Walker established her manufacturing company in Indianapolis. This made her the richest black woman in the United States during that time. Her political and social activism began during 1916, after she moved to New York (Ayana & Lori, 2001). One of her significant participation in social and political activism is evident through her involvement in the establishment of the National Association of Colored People (NACP). During meetings with her agents, she did not only encourage entrepreneurship, but also engaged in social and political activism. Madame C.J Walker admitted that she was patriot to the United States; however, she could not stand for injustice. Walker openly admitted that her success was due to self-belief, belief in God, perseverance, and most importantly the willingness to put more efforts in one's pursuit. Walker succumbed to death during 1919 due to kidney failure (Yannuzzi, 2000). The following section outlines how the concept of personal development relates to the life of Madame C.J. Walker.
Personal development is one of the most significant traits that Madam C.J Walker had during her entire lifetime. In a broader context, personal development entails involvement in activities aimed at improving self-identity and enhancing one's knowledge concerning the past, the present and the truth (Nutley, 2008). Personal development does not only entail the development of the self, but also the empowerment of other people. People can develop others through the assumption of roles such as mentors, teachers and any other position that entails issuance of directives in order to empower other people. It is widely evident that Madame C.J Walker invested a lot of her time in personal development (Yannuzzi, 2000). Her self-development is evident in the transitions that occurred during her lifetime; from the cotton fields to becoming the most successful and the richest black businesswoman in the United States during her time.
The perception of personal development is diverse and entails different levels, for example, at the individual level, institutional level and in the business context. At the individual level, personal development involves enormous activities aimed at the development of the self. One of the most significant aspects of personal development is improving the self-awareness of an individual (Nutley, 2008). Self-awareness is the ability of an individual to apprehend his/her existence as a being. It usually entails the perception and the acceptance of the thoughts that are occurring in the present life of a person, which in turn plays a significant role in determining who a person is. Self-awareness, in relation with personal development, gives us the ability to make a choice of our thoughts rather than just perceiving the thoughts as a series of accumulated events that resulted to the present state of affairs.
Relating this concept of self-awareness to the life of Madame C.J Walker, her self-awareness is evident due to the fact that she believed in herself, in fact, Walker asserts that self-belief played a significant role in determining his success as a businesswoman and a social and political activist (Everett, 2004). It through the belief in her that saw her transform her life from working in the cotton fields to become a successful entrepreneur running a line of beauty products. Walker also encouraged her agents to be practice self-awareness. In addition, she encouraged the black women to lay more emphasis on their personal appearance. In one of her conferences, Walkers asserts that her agents were more than just making money, meaning that they were to focus more on personal development issues and empower other women (Bundles, 2008).
Another important aspect of personal development is having the knowledge of the self. This primarily entails the application of the underlying principles of awareness and consciousness of the self (Nutley, 2008). The perceptions that a person has towards his own personalities play a significant role in determining self-knowledge. Self-knowledge also plays a significant role in determining the knowledge about ourselves and the craving to be able to increase the knowledge of the self. Self-knowledge plays a significant role in influencing personal development because it provides an avenue through which individuals can increase their knowledge, and use the available knowledge in establishing strategies that aim to initiate personal development and develop people around us (Nutley, 2008).
In this context, Madame C.J Walker puts more emphasis on black women in the United States; this is evident due to the fact that his beauty products aimed to offer treatment to mainly black women in the United States. Despite the controversies in her hair products, Walker focused on improving her business within and outside the United States borders. Walker travelled within the United States in attempt to demonstrate his hair products and encourage black businesswomen and businessmen both within and outside the United States (Krohn, 2007). It is evident that self-knowledge played a significant role in her personal development, which in turn affected her success as a businesswoman, political and social activist.
The third most important aspect of personal development demonstrated by Madam C.J Walker during her lifetime is identification and improving the potential that an individual has. Potentials are the capabilities of an individual that determine the extent to which a person can develop one self (Bundles, 2008). Madam C.J Walker identified and maximized on the fact that she and many other black women suffered from scalp that resulted to hair losses. In bid to cure the ailments, Walker tried many commercial hair products that did not work out. As a result, she was motivated to develop her own formulation that served as a solution to the scalp problem. Walker exploited this opportunity and used it to make a fortune (Ayana & Lori, 2001). In addition, she used the opportunity to empower black women and businesspersons in the United States.
Walker also used the then social and political settings to which based on racial discriminations as a basis for her political activism. Her participation in charity activities is perhaps one of the greatest community give back strategies that she deployed in order to popularize her beauty products line (Everett, 2004). The identifying a potential and then improving is one of the best approaches towards the realization of personal development. Such an approach played a significant role in influencing Madam C.J Walker success in business and her personal endeavors. Despite putting more emphasis on business, Walker made it clear that it was the duty of her agents to prioritize humanity rather than business. Her major concern after she had become a successful businesswoman was to attend to the people who she worked with in the cotton fields. Her ideologies and perceptions such as "hit often and hit hard", and "don't just sit and wait" depict how she was more dedicated to improving the potential within her (Bundles, 2008).
An integration of self-knowledge, identification of human potential and self-awareness play a significant role in influencing personal development within an individual. Other elements of initiating personal development include the fulfillment and realization of aspirations, practicing personal autonomy, improving individual health and wealth and ultimately, the development of one's strengths. Madame C.J Walker significantly depended on the concept and elements that make up personal development to foster success in business and during her daily undertakings that she used to empower black people and condemn the social ills in the then American society (Gardner, 1995). The following section outlines how responsible stewardship played a significant role in determining the success of Madame C.J Walker.
Stewardship refers to assuming someone else responsibilities, simply put, it entails taking charge of what is not yours. Therefore responsible stewardship involves carrying out another person's obligations at the expense of one's responsibilities (Everett, 2004). Responsible stewardship is more of a leadership approach, which aims at empowering and encouraging other people towards the improvement of their personal lives. From a Christian point of view, responsible stewardship entails the concept of leadership by example, implying that an individual who assumes leadership roles such as a mentor or a teacher has to deploy participative approach to leadership. In the case of Madam C.J Walker, she had to deploy responsible stewardship during the management of her business enterprises, and during her daily social and political activism. Madam C.J Walker had a strong belief in religion, and she openly asserts that her success in business is due the belief she had in God. Her dedication to church is evident all along during his lifetime (Yannuzzi, 2000).
Madame C.J Walker demonstrated responsible stewardship in a number of ways during the course of her lifetime. Firstly, she was of the view that despite being a patriot, she could not just sit back and watch the way the society way the society was unjust. As a result, Walker launched the anti-lynching campaigns in order to facilitate the effectiveness of enforcement of the law. Despite Walker's efforts in the realization of business success, her priority focused more on humanity (Krohn, 2007). In fact, Walker wanted more than just improving the financial success of her agents, but also wanted them to put more emphasis on humanity (Krohn, 2007). This represents an art of responsible stewardship, in the sense that both Walker and her agents were supposed to sacrifice their priorities for the sake of their personal development. Personal development that aims at others is in itself a form of responsible stewardship. In this regard, Madame C.J Walker prioritized empowering and encouraging other black business people in the United States the need to be self-reliant (Ayana & Lori, 2001).
Responsible stewardship also entails the use of gifts bestowed upon us for just cause. Just cause is diverse and covers a lot of concepts such as freely helping the less fortunate in life, good use of natural resources and the need to be at ease with all creation. Responsible stewardship is an integration of the elements that contained in personal development. Walker demonstrated this kind of responsible stewardship through her involvement in charity work and giving back to the community that she was part of during her childhood. At the peak of her business endeavors, Madame C.J Walker began putting a lot of emphasis on philanthropic work, which entailed social and political activism that aimed at revolutionizing the way the society viewed the African Americans (Gardner, 1995).
Responsible stewardship played a significant role in influencing the success of Madame C.J Walker in business and his efforts to empower and encourage the African American population in the United States during her times. Apart from aiming at publicizing her hair products, the Walker clubs were avenues for social, economic and political activism (Krohn, 2007). The hallmark of responsible stewardship in the life of Madame C.J Walker is evident in her commitment in upholding Godly values during her daily business and activist undertakings. The following section outlines the concept of excellence and the way in which Madame C.J walker demonstrated excellence during the course of her lifetime.
Excellence refers to carrying out ones activities in a manner that is way above the ordinary. It is a kind of superiority during the daily undertakings of a person (Gardner, 1995). Excellence measures the standards through which the success of a person is measured. In regard to this context, Madame C.J Walker was one of the most successful black businesswomen during the 20th century, ranking her as the richest African-American women during her times. The concept of excellence plays a significant part in influencing the success of a person. The attainment of success is only guaranteed through perseverance and upholding ones principles that govern the choice of a particular course of life (Gardner, 1995). Madame C.J Walker was successful because of the transitions in her life, from being born of slave parents, experiencing a struggling childhood and finally investing in business that made her one of the most successful African-American women.
An important determinant of excellence is integrity. Excellence has a correlation with the previously outlined concepts such as self-knowledge and responsible stewardship. In fact, excellence is the outcome of being consistent with the above concepts (Gardner, 1995). With regard to this, Madame C.J Walker significantly relied on the above to foster success in business and on occasions that he used to encourage black Americans to try and be successful in their undertakings. Madame C.J Walker represents invention and innovation as significant factors that determine excellence when undertaking a particular cause; for example business, activism and other social events (Everett, 2004). It is evident that his ideologies were different from the conventional approaches of the time. For example, she was opposed to the conventional curly hairstyle that black women were fond of; her marketing strategy was different in that she used the door-to-door strategy rather than using public advertising approaches. Her ideologies were not of the ordinary mind, since she based on controversy to prove her point's right.
Another important element of excellence is leadership. Leadership refers to the process of influencing a population towards the realization of a particular objective. A significant trait that Walker processed was her ability to influence people, and this played a significant role in ensuring her success in business and campaigns against social injustices. Excellence in leadership does not come easy and requires a lot of commitment when undertaking a given cause. This implies that one has to put his/priorities right, accompanied with adequate sacrifice in order to excel and become successful in any activities that one undertakes. Walker deployed the use of concepts such as team building in order to realize the success of her businesses (Everett, 2004).
Social Justice in the 21st century
Social justice is paramount for a cohesive existence of the society. This means that social perspectives should base on concepts such as equity. Social injustices have reduced significantly in the 21st century; this is possibly due to emerging global trends that aim at integrating different cultures of different people for a unified cause. Prior to this, social justice was inexistent, characterized by immense racism, feminism, and economic inequalities. The social transformation of the 21st century played a significant role in the elimination of social injustices that were associated with the 20th century. Issues such as gender divisions and feminism do not form part of the societal structure in the 21st century. Factors such as increased urbanization, globalization and religious values played a significant role in the elimination of the gender injustices that were on the increase prior to the 21st century.