University center founders honored at Walker/Douglass lecture series

Two founders of university centers focused on African American business ventures were honored for their contributions during an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis lecture series named for historic businesswoman Madam C.J. Walker.

Juliet E.K. Walker, a pioneer scholar of black business history in America, received the first Madame C.J. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award during the inaugural Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Annual Lecture Series on Dec. 6 at the Jewel Center in Indianapolis.

Juliet Walker is the founder of the Center for Black Business History, Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she has been a professor of history since 2001.

Bessie House-Soremekun, director of Africana studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, received the Global African American Activist Ambassador Award.

House-Soremekun is founding executive director of the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development, part of the School of Liberal Arts. The center’s mission is to build entrepreneurial capacity and sustainable development initiatives in America and African countries.

Juliet Walker, who earned her Ph.D. in American history from the University of Chicago, is considered the foremost scholar in black business history in America. Her development of that field is linked to the publication of her book, “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier.” Her book, “The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship,” was the first comprehensive study of African American businesses.

“It is entirely befitting for Professor Walker to receive this prestigious award … for the first woman to establish a major field in black entrepreneurship to (receive the inaugural) award named after the first female self-made millionaire in the United States,” said Walker’s letter of nomination.

photo house-soremekun

Bessie House-Soremekun

The Walker/Douglass lecture series was co-hosted and co-created by the Africana Studies Program, an academic unit of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, under the leadership of House-Soremekun, and the Frederick Douglass Papers in in the Institute for American Thought in the School of Liberal Arts, led by Professor John Kaufman-McKivigan.

The theme for this year’s event was “The Life and Times of Madame C.J. Walker: The Historical Development of a Business Empire.” Madam Walker was a self-made African American millionaire, having made a fortune from beauty and hair-care businesses before her death in 1919. Juliet Walker was the luncheon keynote speaker for the event.

The Activist Ambassador Award acknowledges House-Soremekun, also professor of political science and Africana studies at IUPUI, for investing in multicultural networking; exhibiting hope and faith for a brighter future for African-Americans; and bridge building to ensure the African-American community is enlightened and enhanced.

“The presentation of this award is emblematic of the impact that Dr. House-Soremekun has made both at home and abroad,” said David A. Scott Sr., who presented the award to House-Soremekun on behalf of the African American Restoration Movement of Indianapolis and the Globe Changers Movement.