A man wearing a head phone set speaks. Bookshelves line the wall behind him.
>> Hello. My name is Dr. Tyrone McKinley Freeman.
I'm with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.
For the past 10 years I've been studying the life of Madam C.J. Walker.
I've written a book about her called Madam C.J. Walker's Gospel of Giving: Black Women's Philanthropy During Jim Crow through the University of Illinois Press.
Since the Netflix series about Madam's life released I've been asked a lot of questions by different people.
So here's a little more historical context for your viewing of Netflix's self-made inspired by the life of Madam.
On screen text. Experts react. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C J Walker.
[ Music ]
A Black woman in a head wrap runs a garment over a washboard. On screen text. Washerwoman, from episode 1. Courtesy: Netflix, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C J Walker (2020).
>> Seems like I was born to struggle.
Life of a washer woman is hard.
Later, the woman knocks at a door then stands back on the porch. A Black woman wearing an apron steps out through the door. A white woman follows. The woman in the apron looks the washerwoman up and down.
I scrub my fingers to the bone for pennies.
The white woman drops a coin into the washerwoman's hand. The washerwoman raises her eyebrows. Back inside, the washerwoman sits before a metal tub as she works.
Most days I can't even make ends meet.
>> In this opening scene, we get a glimpse of Sarah's early life as a washer woman, which is very important.
Madam Walker was very proud of having been a washer woman.
We know from research done by great historians like Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, and Tara Hunter from Princeton University, that washer women were standup members of the community.
They not only took care of their families and were breadwinners paying for housing and for education for their children, but they were the first that organizations would go to for charitable donations or people would go to for money for start-up capital to start businesses.
They were really important members of their community.
So it's very important that Madam Walker was a washer woman.
They were pillars of community and it was no mistake that she was one of them.
A Black man in a suit stands with his back to a wall beside a short entryway. At the end of the entryway, Madam C J Walker stands at an open door. On screen text. Freeman B. Ransom, From Episode 2.
>> I want to invest in your factory.
He reaches into his breast coat pocket and pulls out a small packet.
I have $500.
>> Where did you get that kind of money?
>> Well, I did a little legal work on the side when I was at Columbia.
In a few hours, Booker will endorse you, businessmen will be falling over themselves to invest.
I want to be the first.
[ Music ]
Without turning, he reaches his hand back toward Madam. She reaches out, then holds up the packet.
>> Bless your heart.
I'll put it in the safe.
>> Your tenacity is remarkable, Madam.
Nettie and I wish you the best of luck.
>> Your tenacity is remarkable, Madam.
This is a tender moment in the series where Freeman B. Ransom, who is played by Kevin Carroll, comes to Madam and wants to invest in her dream by giving her money.
This was a powerful scene because it displays the real-life devotion and dedication of Freeman B. Ransom to Madam Walker.
Freeman was an attorney, and he eventually became the general manager of the Walker Company and after Madam's death, he led the company for several years.
This relationship was very special, a very important part of Madam's story and even to this day Walker descendents and Ransom descendents are very close and have a strong bond.
Madam and a Black man stand in a hallway. On screen text. Booker T. Washington, from Episode 2.
>> But God was speaking through me.
>> That little outburst that you had in there, it was rude and uncalled for.
>> Sir, with all due respect I need your endorsement.
Where you lead, others follow.
Jobs are at stake.
>> Jobs in a trivial company that shames Negros into the euro-centered status of beauty?
>> I have no interest in making colored women look white.
I want us to feel beautiful too.
>> But Negros cannot afford to waste money on cosmetics.
>> That's why I pay my employees four times what they'd earn taking in laundry for half the hours.
>> And soon we'll have Negro women out earning Negro men.
>> Is that what this is about?
>> How is America going to take us seriously if we allow our women to surpass us?
>> It's not a competition.
We all need to be lifted, sir.
>> The Negro man needs to be lifted first.
>> I know our men have it hard, but so do our women.
>> I would rather endorse a palm reader than a hair culturalist, Mrs. Walker, and the little outburst in there is precisely the reason why you ladies need to be kept in your place.
He turns, then walks through a side door.
>> In this scene, Madam C.J. Walker is privately confronted by Booker T. Washington, a prominent black leader but also controversial black leader of the period who was also the head of Tuskegee Institute.
She had just interrupted his convention and taken over the floor and spoke to the audience even though he didn't want her to.
And so he pulls her aside in the series to berate her and express his unhappiness.
Now in real life, Madam Walker did indeed take over the floor of the National Negro Business League in 1912.
She delivered a rousing speech, the audience went wild with applause, but the records show that Booker T. Washington kind of ignored it.
That he just went on with the agenda and acted like it didn't happen, which is really interesting, but it's important to note that Madam Walker eventually got what she wanted.
Over the next two years Booker T. Washington came to Indianapolis and stayed overnight at her home on the occasion of the grand opening of the local black YMCA that she helped to fund, he had her down to Tuskegee to speak to students and then he also had her return to the National Negro Business League to speak as a featured speaker where he more enthusiastically introduced her.
Madam and a white man in a suit reach each other on a green, open lawn. On screen text. Madam meets Rockefeller, from Episode 2.
>> Madam Walker.
>> Mr. Rockefeller.
We meet at last.
>> What in tarnation is going on at your house?
>> My workers are striking.
I'm trying to reason with them.
>> Workers are always unreasonable, like children.
You have to decide what is best for them.
>> I've tried.
They want -- >> -- who cares what they want?
You didn't get where you are by letting people push you around.
They don't like it, fire them.
>> In this scene, Madam C.J. Walker meets John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon and philanthropist, who lived a few miles away.
And she meets him right after she just experienced some protests from her agents who were upset about a deal she struck for retail sales of their products.
They're very concerned about how those sales through stores will impact their own ability to sell in their communities.
Now in real life, Madam Walker did have some disgruntled agents.
Occasionally there were problems with the distribution line and the logistics of getting products out to agents on time.
There also were concern over some of the retail deals, but it's important to note that she did not follow the advice that Rockefeller gives her in the series.
She and Freeman B. Ransom agonized over the struggles of the agents and were very concerned and worked very hard to be fair in their dealings.
And so they worked very hard to try to develop satisfactory solutions to these issues that arose over time, which again, she was very interested in racial uplift and did not want to take advantage of the women but rather to support and uplift them and Freeman helped her do that.
On screen text. Madam's Generosity, from episode 4.
In this closing scene, which rolls right before the final credits, the series uses footnotes to fill in some of the gaps of the story and here it mentions that Madam made charitable donations to education and social services, she supported the arts and that she also supported the NAACP's anti-lynching movement.
I think it's really important to recognize that philanthropy was not a footnote
In a black and white photo, Madam sits in the driver's seat of an automobile seating three other women. On screen text. A major philanthropist and patron of the arts, Madam C J donated generously to Black colleges, social services organizations, and cultural institutions.
for Madam Walker, it was foundational to her daily life.
In fact, generosity was something that occurred very early in Madam's life.
In another black and white photo, a large crowd of people stand on the steps and fill the terraces of a mansion. On screen text. Madam C J joined forces with Ida B Wells, W L B DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson to support the anti-lynching movement. Her 5,000 dollar gift to the N double A C P was the largest donation the organization had received by 19 19.
When Sarah Breedlove was young, poor, widowed and struggling on her own, she was actively giving of herself to help others and this is very important because it's a different model of giving compared to some of the more well-known philanthropists of that era.
Madam Walker didn't spend her life accumulating wealth and then wait till later in life to focus on philanthropy.
She did what I like to call give along the way.
She took whatever she had at any given moment and made it available to be helpful to someone else.
It's important to remember and recognize the power of Madam Walker's approach to giving and generosity and philanthropy because like her we do not have to wait until we become wealthy or wait until some later point in life, we can give now to make a difference in someone else's life just like she did.
The silhouette of Madam's profile appears. On screen text. There's more to the story.
If you want to learn more, we provided some resources so you can Netflix and engage.
That is dig deeper into Madam's story and learn about her for yourself and remember what Madam Walker said in 1912 she said, "I am in the business world not for myself alone, but to do all the good I can for the uplift of my race." I'm Dr. Tyrell McKinley Freeman.
Thank you for watching.
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