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Madam C. J. Walker's Gospel of GivingBlack Women's Philanthropy during Jim Crow$
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Tyrone McKinley Freeman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043451

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043451.001.0001

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Making Madam C. J. Walker

Making Madam C. J. Walker

(p.25) 1 Making Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C. J. Walker's Gospel of Giving

Tyrone McKinley Freeman

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 1 presents the early life experiences of Sarah Breedlove and their influences in shaping Madam C. J. Walker’s identity, sense of responsibility to others, and philanthropic giving. Her philanthropy began to form when she was a poor, widowed migrant moving around the South dependent upon a robust philanthropic network of black civil society institutions and black women who cared for her during the most difficult period of her life. The chapter shows how she was socialized into respectability, racial uplift ideology, generosity, and philanthropic giving by a group of St. Louis black churchwomen and clubwomen, whose support and mentoring enabled her to change her life course. In outlining her early membership and involvement with key networks of women, including washerwomen, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church’s Mite Missionary Society, and the Court of Calanthe fraternal order, the chapter demonstrates the formation of Madam Walker’s moral imagination as the foundation for her philanthropic life. It situates Walker within the culture of the AME Church, which immersed her in faith, black history, self-help and racial uplift ideologies, education, activism, and internationalism. In the process, the chapter reveals Walker’s formation of a moral imagination that integrated business and philanthropy, embraced particular causes, and forged diverse means of giving.

Keywords:   Jim Crow, moral imagination, respectability, racial uplift, black churchwomen, black clubwomen, faith-based organizations, fraternal organizations, philanthropy, women’s studies

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