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Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy during Jim Crow

Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy during Jim Crow

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Winner of the The 2021 AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising & Philanthropy

The iconic businesswoman's life of generosity and inspiration

Founder of a beauty empire, Madam C. J. Walker was celebrated in the early 1900s as America's first self-made female millionaire. Known as a leading African American entrepreneur, Walker was also devoted to an activist philanthropy aimed at empowering African Americans and challenging the injustices inflicted by Jim Crow.

Tyrone McKinley Freeman's biography highlights how giving shaped Walker's life before and after she became wealthy. Poor and widowed when she arrived in St. Louis in her twenties, Walker found mentorship among black churchgoers and working black women. Her adoption of faith, racial uplift, education, and self-help soon informed her dedication to assisting black women's entrepreneurship, financial independence, and activism. Walker embedded her philanthropy in how she grew her business, forged alliances with groups like the National Association of Colored Women, funded schools and social service agencies led by African American women, and enlisted her company's sales agents in local charity and advocacy work.

Illuminating and dramatic, Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving broadens our understanding of black women’s charitable giving and establishes Walker as a foremother of African American philanthropy.