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Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Madam C.J. Walker and Her Legacy

Thu, Oct 4, 2:00 to 3:50pm, Marriott Downtown Hotel, Marriott 7-AV - 2nd Floor

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Abstract

Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), the famous African American entrepreneur and philanthropist, lived in Indianapolis, Indiana from 1910-1916, and established her beauty culture company’s headquarters in the city. Since that time, the city has been a primary location for the preservation of Walker’s life story and legacy through the Madam Walker Theater building, which formerly housed the company. From the politics of black women’s hair and the struggle to overcome Jim Crow to her advocacy for black soldiers during WWI and her generosity toward black people and organizations, Madam Walker’s life and achievements spanned many areas including beauty culture, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, patriotism, education, the arts, and activism. As we approach the centennial of her death, Madam Walker’s popularity continues as a new generation has discovered her, and Hollywood is developing a television mini-series about her. This roundtable session brings together a Walker family descendant, scholars, and community leaders—who have engaged Walker’s life and legacy through familial, scholarly, and community-based perspectives—to discuss and discern the meaning of her story to past, current, and future generations.

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