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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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(p.165) 6 Legacy
Madam C. J. Walker's Gospel of Giving

Tyrone McKinley Freeman

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 6 tells the full story of Walker’s last will and testament, which has been used by scholars to document her generosity because of its numerous charitable provisions. To date, scholars have missed the discrepancy between Walker’s intended charitable provisions and those actually executed by her daughter, A’Lelia, as executor. Consequently, only one-tenth of Walker’s estate went to charity rather than her intended one-third, a reduction explained in part by Walker’s own exorbitant spending during her lifetime and that of her daughter afterwards. The chapter explains how Walker lived during a transitional period in which women’s wills were rare—but becoming more common—and African American wills were historically restricted. She used testamentary documents to navigate her social position with respect to race, class, and gender and asserted her identity as an honorable, respectable, God-fearing, and generous black female business owner under the absurdities and indignities of Jim Crow. It told succeeding generations how she wished to be remembered and signaled women’s and African Americans’ increasing use of testamentary tools to preserve their property rights. It also set the tone for how subsequent generations would remember and pay homage to Walker as a great race woman who inspired and uplifted African Americans.

Keywords:   charitable provisions, Walker estate, testamentary, last will and testament, inheritance, Walker legacy, A’Lelia Walker, vocational education, Booker T Washington, Tuskegee Institute

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