Interview: Tyrone McKinley Freeman on the first Black female millionaire and philanthropist

Charlotte Kilpatrick, digital editor at Alliance, had the opportunity recently to catch up Tyrone McKinley Freeman, the newly appointed Glenn Family Chair in Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lily School of Philanthropy. His work has focused on the history of philanthropy and communities of colour. He’s most recently written a book focusing on the life of Madame CJ Walker, America’s first Black female millionaire.

Charlotte Kilpatrick: For those who have not heard of her, can you give us a quick summary of who is she and why you chose to write about her?

Tyrone McKinley FreemanTyrone McKinley Freeman

Tyrone McKinley Freeman : The title of my book is Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy During Jim Crow. Madam C.J. Walker was an early 20th-century African-American woman entrepreneur and philanthropist who was born right as slavery was ending in the United States in 1867 in the American South. She had a very difficult life initially, she entered into the cosmetics and beauty culture industry. She developed a set of products and began selling them door to door, and it took off in that it helped black women take care of their hair and developed their own beauty aesthetic in a world that had lifted up white women as the standard of beauty.

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