How Madam C.J. Walker Built Racial Equity into Her Business

December 9, 2020

By Tyrone McKinley Freeman and Katie Smith Milway

In the early twentieth century, Madam C.J. Walker, a Black, woman entrepreneur, built her business as a way to provide economic opportunity for Black women during a period marked by racial discrimination and sexism. Racial equity was an integral part of Walker’s business model, which sought to raise the stakes for employees, provide economic mobility, promote education, and encourage local activism. With her firsthand knowledge of the many barriers in the way of African Americans’ economic mobility, Walker was well positioned to implement practices to overcome those barriers. Today’s business leaders who are serious about promoting racial equity in their own companies can ask the same questions and apply the same principles as Walker did a century ago.

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