Marjorie Stewart Joyner

Marjorie Stewart Joyner (1896–1994)

Marjorie Stewart Joyner (1896–1994)

Marjorie Stewart Joyner supervised the training of thousands of black beauticians as a vice president of the Madam C. J. Walker Company. Financially independent and free from the control of white employers, these black women became important grassroots leaders in the civil rights movement.

Sign, 1920s–1960s

Sign, 1920s–1960s

This sign identified salons that were franchises of the Madam C. J. Walker Company. African American women without access to bank loans during segregation often became franchisees in order to become entrepreneurs. Franchises with the Walker beauty company allowed thousands of black women to launch their own businesses.

Black women with successful franchises were able to escape working as maids or farmhands.

Patent illustration, 1928

Patent illustration, 1928

In 1928, Joyner was awarded a patent a “permanent-waving machine” hair-care device, which later became a fixture in American salons.

Courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The labor-intensive process of styling black women’s hair provided ample opportunity to share news, both personal and political. Stylists made additional profits selling Walker products.

Permanent rod

Permanent rod

Crimping iron

Crimping iron

Straightening iron

Straightening iron

Curling iron

Curling iron

Pressing comb

Pressing comb

Heating coil

Heating coil

Shampoo bottle

Shampoo bottle

Pressing oil canister

Pressing oil canister

Picture of Marjorie Stewart Joyner and Mary McLeod Bethune, 1947

Picture of Marjorie Stewart Joyner and Mary McLeod Bethune, 1947

The profits from thousands of beauty parlors sustained black colleges and universities. Here, Marjorie Stewart Joyner is giving a check to Mary McLeod Bethune, president of Bethune-Cookman College, on behalf of the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association. Eventually, these funds would build the campus dormitory that today bears Joyner’s name.

Black business advertisement, Tulsa Star, 1920

Black business advertisement, Tulsa Star, 1920

By placing advertisements in newspapers such as The Tulsa Star, black beauticians and other entrepreneurs funded black newspapers. These advertising dollars sustained news reporting about African Americans at a time when white-owned newspapers typically excluded black perspectives from their pages.

Civil rights button, 1920s–1960s

Civil rights button, 1920s–1960s

Black businesses supported a range of civil rights efforts by providing the funding and public spaces necessary for successful organizing.