Maggie Walker: Leader, Mentor & Advocate

Local and national coverage featured a story about the first statue in Richmond, Virginia honoring Maggie Walker. Locally she is know for her contributions as an entrepreneur, teacher, advocate, newspaper publisher, bank owner, and mother. But, the truth is this: Maggie Walker is a leadership icon before her time and with a legacy that goes beyond city boundaries. Her contributions were unprecedented and her example should be a lesson replicated by leaders everywhere.

At a time when women and African Americans did not have access to resources or authority, Maggie Walker showed others how to be trailblazers. As a local Richmond-based businesswoman, she used her position serving also as a civil rights leader. A recent Washington Post article showcased contributions she made leveraging her newspaper as a bully pulpit to help Richmond’s African American community. As a leader among leaders, she took time to likely forego revenue-generating business to advocate for African Americans and work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Every leader should take note!

More importantly, she was an opportunist who reached back into her community. As business owner, she allowed African Americans to shop at her clothing establishment when other proprietors were dismissive. She could have complied with the unspoken expectations during the 1900s. She might not have taken the risk to be perceived as competition with mainstream businesses. But, she did!

Her systematic forecasting for being both an entrepreneur and advocate distinguish her as a phenomenal mentor. People today should marvel at her contributions and appreciate the erected statue, at the same time appreciating her statue is not the last to honor such unparalleled contributions.

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