Guest column/African-Americans have a rich heritage to share

Once again, we have come to the close of the commemoration of African-American (Black) History Month 2014.

We are very grateful and proud that God dealt with Carter G. Wilson, in a vision, to begin in February 1926 black history month to recognize our culture, history and achievements, which are very unique and bring us to where we are today.

Prior to the degradation of slavery, we have always maintained an intelligent mind, which has brought us success in doing what we chose to do, with explicitly. From the 1880s to the present, African-Americans have successfully invented and produced.

We have become scientists, mayors, senators, congressmen, musicians, artists, athletes and corporation presidents in the United States and around the world. We can become whatever we desire with education and hard work.

One such person who exemplifies that desire was Madam C.J. Walker, who was the first African-American woman to found a million-dollar empire. A businesswoman and inventor, Walker’s original name was Sarah Breedlove. Born in 1867 and orphaned at 5, she was married at 14 and widowed at 20.

She started to lose her hair, and found no success after trying various remedies. She tried a treatment recipe that came to her in a dream, and it worked.

She married Charles Walker after moving to Denver and sold her hair restorer door to door. She soon hired other women who sold this and other beauty products. She opened a second office in Pittsburgh in 1908 and, two years later, opened a factory in Indianapolis.

The several thousand black women who worked for her received good pay and working conditions in jobs that offered more prestige than most that were open to black women.

Walker linked loveliness to cleanliness rather than race. Her insistence that African-American women were beautiful was a critical importance to a society in which white skin and Caucasian features set the beauty standards. Some of the products she developed are still used by African-American women.

Walker also started a series of camps for boys and girls across the United States, one of which was established in our area.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Keep us forever in the path, We pray.

(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is the president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus Inc.)