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Bicentennial Legends: Madam C.J. Walker


The story of the first self-made woman millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), inspired a Netflix series, a collectible Barbie doll–and in 2022, a large outdoor mural near Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis. 

While living in Denver, Madam Walker founded a company that made hair and beauty products for Black women. In 1910, she moved the headquarters to Indy, where the business operated until 1981. She developed what is now the historic Madam Walker Legacy Center with plans for it to operate, in part, as a cutting-edge manufacturing facility. 

The mural, on the Martens building at Pathways to Peace Park at 315 N. Senate Ave., highlights Madam’s legacy and the opportunities she provided for Black professionals, artists, and entertainers through her philanthropy. 

The mural was created with the support of the City of Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission, Indy Arts Council, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Glick Philanthropies, the Indiana Destination Development Corporation, Indianapolis Airport Authority, the Indianapolis Foundation (a CICF affiliate), Visit Indy, Downtown Indy Inc., Indy Parks, 16 Tech Community Corporation, Stoll Keenon Odgen PLLC, OneAmerica, and public donations.  

Meet the Artist

The Madam C.J. Walker mural is Tasha Beckwith’s second large-scale portrait of the inspiring entrepreneur. In 2021, she created Entrepreneurs Awakening: The Making of a Legacy, which is on display at the Indianapolis International Airport.

“When I first started the concept, I asked myself what Madam C.J. Walker meant to me, as a black woman born and raised in Indianapolis,” Beckwith said. She designed the mural with figures of contemporary Black women–hoping to inspire them, along with men and women of all backgrounds–to follow their dreams.

Tasha, based in Indianapolis, studied painting and drawing at the Herron School of Art & Design, but honed her skills in graphic design and digital art on her own. Visit her website here.

Shawn Michael Warren

Meet the poet

Januarie York, an Indianapolis-based author and poet, was commissioned by Indiana Humanities and Indy Arts Council to write an original poem, Madam's Grounds, to accompany the Bicentennial Legends mural of Madam C.J. Walker. Learn more about York's work here.

"Madam's Grounds," written and performed by Januarie York.

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