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Poet sought for Madam C.J. Walker tribute

Madam Walker
Madam Walker

Indiana Humanities and the Indy Arts Council are looking for an Indiana poet to write an original poem about the life and legacy of Madam C.J. Walker.

The poem will accompany a new mural of the country’s first Black female self-made millionaire to be installed in October 2022 on the Martens Building, 315 N. Senate Ave., in downtown Indianapolis.

An entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist, Madam Walker (1867–1919) rose from poverty in the South to become one of the wealthiest Black women of her time. From her hair products empire’s base in Indianapolis, she used her position to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans locally and nationally.

Though most of her activities were aimed toward employment, education and the building of personal and racial pride, Madam Walker fought against prejudice on many fronts, including publicly decrying lynching and protesting the War Department’s segregationist policies. 

More information about Madam Walker can be found at

The new poem should aim to bring fresh context and understanding to the life of Madam Walker, allowing readers to experience the struggles and triumphs of her remarkable story and understand its meaning for today.

The poem will be posted alongside the mural, with hopes that visitors to the mural will read and reflect, finding further connection and inspiration in Madam Walker’s life through the written word.

The poem must be completed by Sept. 15, 2022. It will be unveiled alongside the mural at a ceremony in October 2022.

For the mural, the Indy Arts Council is working with the Madam Walker Legacy Center, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc., and Indianapolis artist Tasha Beckwith to reconfigure Beckwith’s 100-ft-long Madam Walker mural, originally designed as a temporary installation indoors at Indianapolis International Airport, as a more long-term artwork to last up to 15 years outdoors.

The selected poet will receive a $1,000 stipend and potential paid opportunities for live or recorded performances and readings of the poem at programs related to the mural.  

Applications are due on July 24 at 11:59 p.m.
Application form is available at