Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving

Black Women’s Philanthropy during Jim Crow
Author: Tyrone McKinley Freeman
Foreword by A'Lelia Bundles
The iconic businesswoman's life of generosity and inspiration
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 10/12/2020
Cloth: 10/12/2020
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About the Book

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.

About the Author

Tyrone McKinley Freeman is an assistant professor of philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.


"In this well-argued piece of scholarship, Freeman carves out valuable insights into Black history. " --Booklist

"A tremendous biography and a great study of philanthropy." --Library Journal (starred review)

"Brings a fresh perspective to Walker’s legacy, chronicling how she used her position in society to support racial uplift, education, and faith-based initiatives that warded off some of Jim Crow’s evils." --Bitch

"Freeman expands the traditional definition of philanthropy beyond financial giving to show the rich history of Black philanthropy that informed the life and work of Madam C. J. Walker." --Stanford Social Innovation Review

"The book paints a portrait of a unique historical figure, but also contains food for thought for today's nonprofit leaders and employees. . . . Activists will find engaging stories and information in the book from which they can hopefully draw inspiration and refuel as they continue doing the hard physical and emotional work of social change." --GrantStation

"A unique study and argument that refutes popular and historiographical exceptionalist notions of the famous businesswoman." --Choice

"Walker's Gospel of Giving sets the stage for black philanthropy in spite of societal obstacles in place for black people." --Annals of Iowa

"Groundbreaking. . . Freeman crafts a critical text that adds to the growing literature on philanthropy." --Journal of Southern History


"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


•  A 2020 Seminary Co-op Notable Book
• Winner, The AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy, Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2021
• Winner, Terry McAdam Book Award, Alliance for Nonprofit Management, 2021
• Winner, Dan David Prize, endowed by the Dan David Foundation, 2022
• Winner, Peter Dobkin Hall History of Philanthropy Prize, Association for Research on Nonprofit and Voluntary Action, 2023