Who Was the Greatest Black Philanthropist in American History?

Throughout American history, there have been numerous individuals who have devoted their time, money, and resources to charitable causes. However, the contributions of Black philanthropists have often gone unrecognized or underappreciated.

In this article, we will explore the life and works of one such philanthropist – Madam C.J. Walker.

Who was Madam C. Walker?

Madam C. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana in 1867.

She was the daughter of formerly enslaved parents and grew up working on a cotton plantation. Despite facing significant adversity throughout her life, she went on to become a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Her Rise to Success

Walker’s journey began in St. Louis where she worked as a laundress earning only $1.50 a day. She later moved to Denver where she married Charles Joseph Walker and changed her name to Madam C.

In 1905, after experiencing hair loss due to a scalp condition, Walker developed her own line of hair care products for Black women. Her products were an instant hit and soon became popular across the country.

As her business grew, so did her philanthropic efforts. In 1913, she founded the Madam C. Walker Manufacturing Company which employed thousands of Black women across North America.

Her Philanthropic Efforts

Walker’s success allowed her to give back generously to her community through various charitable initiatives. In 1914, she donated $1,000 (equivalent to $25,000 today) towards the construction of a new YMCA building in Indianapolis.

She also contributed towards scholarships for Black students at Tuskegee Institute and donated generously towards the building of schools and homes for Black families.

In addition to these efforts, Walker was also an advocate for women’s rights and supported various organizations that aimed to uplift and empower Black women.

Her Legacy

Madam C. Walker’s philanthropic legacy continues to inspire generations of Black entrepreneurs and activists. Her contributions towards the advancement of Black communities in the face of systemic racism and discrimination serve as a testament to her resilience, determination, and generosity.

In 2020, Netflix released a mini-series called ‘Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. Walker’ which brought her story to a wider audience.


Madam C. Walker was not only a trailblazing entrepreneur but also an exemplary philanthropist who dedicated her life towards uplifting and empowering marginalized communities. Her contributions serve as a reminder that true success is not measured solely by wealth or fame, but by one’s ability to give back to society and make a positive impact on the lives of others.