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February 9, 2021
Mary Shaw

In honor of Black History Month, I did some research about how different cultures approach generosity and came across an article about Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire. Intrigued, I began down a path to learn everything I could about this impressive lady. 

Born to former slaves, Walker was raised on a cotton plantation during Reconstruction. In her early twenties, she left home and migrated to St. Louis. There, she began on her entrepreneur journey, caving a substantial niche in the world of beauty products.

While Walker eventually became a millionaire, she didn’t wait for wealth and riches to live a generous life. She gave wholeheartedly from day one, using the time and resources at her disposal to relieve needs in her community.

Her commitment to generosity only grew with her wealth. As her business flourished, she supported her community, paid her employees well, and helped others follow her lead. Because of her life well lived, Walker is today considered a foremother of African American philanthropy and is respected as someone who challenged cultural norms, from a woman’s place in business to Jim Crow segregation.

To highlight Walker’s significance, Netflix released Self Made in 2020. Based on a biography written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, the short series is delightful and insightful.

For those who want to go beyond basic biographical information, Tyrone Freeman’s The Gospel of Giving is a great start. In the book, Freeman chronicles Walker’s generosity journey and lays out the ways she determined how to give of her time and resources. 

As Freeman explains, Walker utilized a five-fold approach when targeting her gifts. This strategy involved opportunity, education, activism, material resources, and legacy—a powerful and strategic framework for giving. Walker’s story is inspiring, and her generosity is a beautiful testimony that God is the giver of all good gifts. And when we hold those gifts with open hands, God uses them to do amazing things.


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