‘Self-Made’ miniseries about Madam C.J. Walker leaves out the mark she made through generosity

The miniseries “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” undoubtedly brought to light the remarkable journey of America’s first female self-made millionaire. Portraying the resilience, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit of Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, the series captured the essence of her rise from poverty to prosperity in the early 20th century. However, amidst the accolades and admiration for her business acumen, the portrayal in the miniseries inadvertently overlooked a significant aspect of Madam Walker’s legacy—her profound generosity. This essay aims to shed light on the philanthropic endeavors of Madam C.J. Walker that were conspicuously absent in the ‘Self-Made’ miniseries.

The Philanthropic Spirit of Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker’s journey to success was not merely marked by personal ambition and financial gain; it was also characterized by her commitment to uplifting others within her community. Born into poverty and facing numerous hardships throughout her life, Madam Walker understood the struggles of African Americans, particularly women, in a society rife with racial discrimination and economic inequality. As she amassed wealth through her haircare empire, she remained deeply rooted in her philanthropic endeavors, using her resources to empower those around her.

One of the most significant contributions of Madam Walker was her support for educational initiatives. Despite facing limited access to formal education herself, she recognized its transformative power and actively invested in educational opportunities for African American youth. Establishing scholarships, funding schools, and advocating for educational reform, Madam Walker sought to break the cycle of poverty and provide marginalized communities with the tools for success.

Furthermore, Madam Walker’s philanthropy extended beyond education to encompass various social and cultural causes. She supported organizations working towards racial equality, women’s rights, and community development. Whether through financial contributions or vocal advocacy, she used her platform to champion social justice and equality, leaving an indelible mark on the progressive movements of her time.

The Omissions in ‘Self-Made’

While the ‘Self-Made’ miniseries admirably portrayed Madam C.J. Walker’s entrepreneurial journey, it failed to adequately depict her philanthropic legacy. The focus on her business achievements overshadowed her altruistic endeavors, painting a somewhat one-dimensional picture of her character. By omitting her acts of generosity and social activism, the series missed an opportunity to fully capture the complexity and depth of Madam Walker’s impact on society.

The miniseries predominantly framed Madam Walker’s success as a product of individual ambition and determination, neglecting the communal support and collective efforts that contributed to her rise. In reality, Madam Walker was deeply connected to her community and actively reinvested her wealth into uplifting those who had supported her along her journey. This communal ethos, rooted in reciprocity and solidarity, was integral to Madam Walker’s identity and should have been more prominently featured in the portrayal of her life.

Furthermore, by glossing over Madam Walker’s philanthropy, the miniseries missed an opportunity to explore the intersectionality of her activism. Madam Walker’s advocacy for both economic empowerment and social justice was intertwined, reflecting her holistic approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges facing African Americans. By portraying her solely as a savvy businesswoman, the series overlooked the interconnectedness of her entrepreneurial success and her commitment to social change.


Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy extends far beyond her entrepreneurial achievements; it encompasses a profound commitment to philanthropy, social justice, and community empowerment. While the ‘Self-Made’ miniseries provided a glimpse into her remarkable life, it fell short in capturing the full breadth and depth of her impact. By overlooking her acts of generosity and social activism, the series missed an opportunity to celebrate Madam Walker’s holistic approach to success and inspire audiences with her enduring legacy of resilience, determination, and compassion. As we reflect on Madam Walker’s life, let us remember not only her business acumen but also her unwavering dedication to making a difference in the lives of others—a legacy that continues to inspire generations to come.

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