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Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to Exhibit Madam C.J. Walker’s Portrait

New York / February 24/ BPALiveWire -- The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Fall 2023 will exhibit a self-portrait commissioned by Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919). Madam Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was a twentieth-century entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civil-rights social activist who was notable for being the first American female millionaire. Smithsonian acquired the portrait from the New York-based Doley Foundation.

The portrait was initially displayed in Madam Walker’s Indianapolis business office until the completion of her Irvington, New York estate. Madam died in 1919. Upon the 1931 death of her daughter, A’Lelia, the estate was bequeathed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Irvington estate, including the Walker self-portrait, was acquired in 1993 by Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr., and his wife Helena. The Walker portrait remained displayed there. In 2018, the Doleys sold the Walker estate; the sale included a National Historical Trust easement funded by the Doley Foundation that will maintain the property's integrity in perpetuity.

“I am so pleased that Madam Walker’s portrait will now have a permanent home in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection,” said Ann W. Shumard, Senior Curator of Photographs there.

The Doley Foundation also donated an Addison Scurlock photograph of Madam Walker to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York’s Harlem. This photograph has become her most famous image. It was used as the template for the Black History-series postage stamp of Madam Walker issued in 1998 by the United States Postal Service.

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