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

March 21, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT

The Baton Foundation, in partnership with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, is excited to host a conversation about Madam C. J. Walker’s legacy of philanthropy between author Dr. Tyrone Freeman and Erika M. Smith. This program is free to the public, but registration is required.

About the Book

Founder of a beauty empire, Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) was celebrated in the early 1900s as America’s first self-made female millionaire. Known as a leading Black entrepreneur, Walker was also devoted to an activist philanthropy aimed at empowering Blacks and challenging the injustices inflicted by Jim Crow.

In Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving (University of Illinois Press, 2020), Tyrone McKinley Freeman 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 Black 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 Black philanthropy. PURCHASE BOOK HERE.

This is no simple story of Madam Walker’s charitable giving. Instead, by spanning the course of Walker’s remarkable life from the daughter of enslaved parents to beauty culture mogul, Tyrone McKinley Freeman’s brilliant and impeccably researched book demonstrates that wealth did not drive Walker to give, but that she was the embodiment of a much longer, though often hidden, tradition of Black philanthropy. This book will forever change the way we understand Walker’s importance and provides a much-needed context for contemporary calls for economic justice. –Tiffany Gill, author of Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry.

About the Author

Tyrone McKinley Freeman is an award-winning writer, speaker and teacher whose work examines the intersections of philanthropy, activism, and race in America. A nationally recognized expert in Black philanthropy, he writes and speaks about various forms of Black generosity and social change, past and present. Currently, Professor Freeman is an assistant professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. He also conducts workshops on fundraising and leadership for nonprofit organizations.

Prior to becoming a professor, Dr. Freeman was a fundraising professional and raised money for a range of nonprofit organizations in community economic development, youth and family services, and higher education. He also served as associate director of the world-renowned The Fund Raising School, where he wrote curricula and trained fundraisers and other nonprofit leaders across the United States and in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Professor Freeman is author of Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy During Jim Crow (University of Illinois Press, 2020), and co-author of Race, Gender and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), which explores the personal lives and professional challenges of Black and women nonprofit executive leaders.

A proud HBCU alum, Professor Freeman graduated from Lincoln University (PA) with a B.A. in English. He earned a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from Ball State University, and a M.S. in Adult Education from Indiana University. Dr. Freeman is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

His work has appeared or been cited in TIME, O: The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, NewsOne, Blavity, Chicago Tribune, The Conversation, Black Perspectives, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the Stanford Social Innovations Review.

About Erika M. Smith

Erika M. Smith is a creative, social innovator focused on reinvigorating communities, cultivating small businesses, and preserving culture. She leads the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Economic Opportunity work, including developing the portfolio investment strategy, providing thought-leadership, and expanding partnerships, influence, and policy work to increase residents’ economic well-being in Atlanta’s Southside.

Before joining the Casey Foundation as a senior associate, Erika served as Assistant Director of Southside Community and Economic Development with Invest Atlanta, where she led a regional strategy focused on economic opportunity and mobility in Atlanta’s under-served communities. Previous to Invest Atlanta, Erika was an External Affairs Manager of Research and Strategic Initiatives with Select Fulton, where she led the development of the Economic Opportunity strategic plan and initiatives to improve business retention, address workforce needs, and nurturing small business growth.

Erika’s career spans 20 years, including creating a pre-paid debit card ecosystem in Nigeria, working in strategic marketing functions at JPMorganChase, GMAC Insurance, and Bank of America, co-creating Uhuru Concepts, a social innovation and marketing firm.

Erika is a member of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Micro Enterprise Network and Village Micro Fund and the former Co-Chair of Team Empower Committee for the Beltline Partnership’s AB67, and former Chair of the Board of Directors for Living Walls, the City Speaks. She is an alumnus of the ULI Class of 2015 and the United Way VIP Program.

She is a proud graduate of Florida A&M University, an avid international traveler, an ardent supporter of the arts, a lover of hip hop, and lives in Southwest Atlanta.

Click Here to Register for Zoom Lecture


March 21, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT
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