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Speaker Bio

Juliet E. K. Walker is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also the founding director of the Center of Black Business History, Entrepreneurship, and Technology. Her scholarship has provided the foundation for recognizing black business history as a subfield in African American history.

She is author of the first comprehensive book on black business history, The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship (1998) and Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier (1983) detailing entrepreneurial activities of slave-born Frank (1777–1854). Free Frank is Professor Walker's slave-born great-great grandfather whose business activities, first as a slave, and then after purchasing his freedom in 1819, would eventually buy a total of 16 family members from slavery from profits made from his business enterprises on the Kentucky and Illinois frontiers. Free Frank's mother was African-born, his father was the slaveholder. Free Frank was still a slave when he made his first family purchase, his wife Lucy, in 1817 from profits made as a slave entrepreneur. His business enterprise, processing salt petre--the principal ingredient used in the manufacture of gun powder. Free Frank was the subject of Professor Walker's doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago, where she studied under the eminent scholar historian Dr. John Hope Franklin.

Dr. Walker is also the editor of the Encyclopedia of African American Business History (1999) and the author of some ninety articles and scholarly essays. Walker has held a senior Fulbright fellowship in South Africa and a Princeton Davis International Center fellowship, as well as fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities at Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Research Institute. She has won twelve publication awards and three lifetime achievement awards: the Carter G. Woodson Scholar's Medallion from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History; the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Madame C.J. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Business History Conference Lifetime Achievement Award. She is currently completing a book, "Oprah Winfrey: An American Entrepreneur."

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