Jan Matzeliger revolutionized the shoe making industry when he patented the "shoe lasting" machine in 1883. His invention was able to duplicate and automate the previously slow, intricate process of "lasting" shoes; joining the upper parts of a shoe to the sole. In the same time that an expert shoe laster could produce 50 pairs of shoes, Matzeliger's machine was able to produce up to 700 pairs.
Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker became a beauty products pioneer and one of the nation's first female millionaires. In the early 1900s, using her husband's name (Charles Joseph Walker), she developed a very successful business manufacturing hair goods and preparations, and her company eventually became one of the country's largest businesses owned by an African-American. Walker also became one of the era's leading African-American philanthropists and political activists, strongly supporting education, charitable institutions, political rights, and economic opportunities for African-Americans and women.