Marching or Protesting? Here is a warning! Many Black women social justice leaders died broke. You’re next?

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer

I’ve always been into social justice. I was active in politics for years and I’ve blogged about it here. One thing I noticed was that for all of their great contributions Black women leaders had made during the various social justice movements, most died broke.

Phillis Wheatley - died broke
Harriet Tubman - died broke
Zora Neale Hurston - died broke
Fannie Lou Hamer - died broke
Claudia Jones - died broke
Betty Shabazz - died broke
Many others have died broke!

A very few died broke from poor financial choices. Most died broke because social justice movements do not pay well. By the way, there is a reason why they are mostly Black women, but that is another issue. These people gave up their time, bodies and almost their lives to insure our rights, but they died destitute. It doesn’t take away from their efforts, but it is sad. That is the track many of you are on today. Because you are so focused on every injustice you have forgotten how important it is to build your own wealth.

Lets get the poverty piety out of the way. Wealth is good. It not evil, bad or sinful. You don’t have to be dishonest or dirty to get or have it. Wealth is a tool to ensure that you receive a service/product in exchange for money. Money helps you obtain things so that you can have an easier life. Now that the money is evil falsehood is settled, lets get back on topic.

Madame CJ Walker.gif

Madam CJ Walker

I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. The two books that inspired me the most were Madam CJ Walker’s “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (Lisa Drew Books) and Reginald Lewis’ “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire (please check them out. They will inspire you). The truth is social justice does not pay unless you have a hustle like Al and Jessie (take a look at how certain people in the social justice industry get paid here. Yes, it is an industry). I dip and dabble in social issues, but I don’t want to die broke.

Reginald F. Lewis

What I realized was that if I want to create a contribution like Madam Walker did as explained in  “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (Lisa Drew Books)” and in Reginald Lewis did as explained in his biography “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire,” I must have the funds to do it. What did Oprah do? She wasn’t broke and working for a school. With her own wealth, she followed their model and started a school. What have I always wanted to do? Create a wonderful community for my people. I can’t do those things if I am broke and working for someone else. Neither can you.

Like the Black woman social justice leaders of the past, you don’t have to sacrifice your well-being, your future and if you choose to do have them, your children’s financial well-being for a movement. You can focus on wealth building now and then use the wealth you acquire to create and lead your own movement. Starting today, I want you to become just as passionate about building your wealth as you are about political parties, entertainers and racism. No, be more passionate about wealth building than those things. Your wealth could be the catalyst for change. You can become a philanthropist.

Now if you want to struggle for the movement and die in poverty it is your choice. Here is my truth. As much as I love advocacy, I don’t want be 80 years old and begging for people to take care of me or raising money for my funeral because I once was leader.  Our leaders dying in poverty is really embarrassing, but it tells you all you need to know about your future if you follow in their footsteps. Even if you give everything, the people you have sacrificed for, it has been proven, won’t give you a darn thing back and feel like they owe you nothing. You are on your own. You don’t have to go through this if you are financially smart and control your own destiny.

Take a look at author Khadija Nassif’s “Get What You Need First, Then Do X, Y, Z” where she explains it in greater detail. H/T Adeen K and Breukelen B.

Remember the only limit we have is the one we have placed on ourselves. Think and be limitless.

UPDATE: Read Amelia Boynton Robinson’s story “103-year-old activist: I was almost killed fighting for freedom.” She is now 103 years old and was a civil rights activist. Take a hard look at the last lines in the article,”There is an ongoing appeal to help keep Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson in her own home and fund her round-the-clock caregivers. Donations can be made to Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson, P.O. Box 333, Tuskegee, Ala. 36087.” I don’t want to go through this. Now you see why I wrote this post.

If you like this post show me some love. Subscribe, share this post and or donate to this blog. If you want in-depth solutions on how to change your destiny for the price of less than a cup of coffee ($2.99) check out my e-book, Change Your Mind, Change Your Destiny. It is the lifestyle blueprint for the strategic Black woman who wants to win and master her life.

Since you made it this far in the post, as my gift to you, I want you to download my free Change Your Mind, Change Your Life Goals and Action Plan Worksheets. The worksheets will help you create your goals and stick to them. Thank you for reading.



  1. Ritchie Mayes 29 December, 2014 at 13:03 Reply

    When we talk about social justice, many focus on issues of exclusion and inclusion. Undergirding that focus is creating change in the way people begin to think about defining, what is important. I agree, wealth is the ability to purchase those tangible things that can improve the quality of life. However, wealth is illusionary. Time and time again, having wealth does not ensure one of equitable treatment. Today, many focus on acquiring wealth as if it is a panacea for solving social issues. However, wealth does buy access. But the question remains, access for whom. The women listed above did die penniless; however, we must also look at priorities, and the times they lived in. Some of the challenges faced by those women were different in comparison to today. We cannot judge their accomplishments based on present experiences. Neither can we discount many of the societal structures that shaped their experiences. In some ways society is different from what those women faced. Our hindsight can be used as a model for developing different strategies that will result in appreciable gains. but we must be careful about proscribing our values and viewpoints on their efforts. Obtaining wealth has become a focus for many today. But we cannot allow ourselves to forego challenging a system that does not work to ensure an atmosphere of mutual benefit for all.

    • ak 29 December, 2014 at 18:36 Reply

      What are you talking about? You’re talking pure nonsense. In the context of any point and time in history, if you’re left destitute and broke whether through any fault of your own, parasitic people you’ve unfortunately met and known, bad investments once made, etc., etc. especially regarding the old and infirm let alone the young, it is a very bad and vulnerable situation to be in and SOME amount of money that can insure at least a comfortable life for the forseeable future that will definitely cover shelter, food, water, heat is what will always be needed and these black women who sacrificed so much of their time and possibly even their own money for the civil rights of black people today definitely had these needs as much as anybody else.

      Even if these women felt no desire or need to have the flash wealth of the Rockefellers surely they would have finally felt the crunch of life when they were left neglected, alone, broke and living from day to day with many worries about the necessities needed to live or even survive. And as for any black people today even in the long aftermath of the recession of 2008, if any of them feel like creating great wealth for themselves that is their proper right and at least if they’re wise with it and save most of it instead of squandering it all then hopefully they will be saved from such a desperate fate!

      Even if the black ladies who Bougie listed denounced any amount of wealth because of their faith in God or the cause or whatever, it’s very callous and inconsiderate to dismiss and hop, skip and jump over the horrible circumstances they remained in once they became older and more infirm. All and any of these causes for other people just have to wait if these ladies and any others like them in the present day or in the future cannot pay their rent/mortgage, feed themselves, clothe themselves, take care of their children if they have any, feather their nest eggs in time for the ‘rainy days’ in the future, etc., etc. charity begins at home and this includes women such as these. Everybody else and their causes will have to come last until further notice because believe me that will be how everybody else will see it when it comes to their own situations. You’re talking pure circumvention which is inconsiderate to the memory of these women. Maybe they didn’t want to be Imelda Marcos or Leona Helmsley but for goodness sake you must be able to grasped how ending up neglected, broke and overlooked as they did was a sin and a crying shame.

      • Ritchie Mayes 30 December, 2014 at 10:28 Reply

        The actions of those previously noted women are somehow dismissed and devalued because some view wealth building as the central issue germain to social injustice. We have to remember, not everyone considers building wealth as a priority. Moreover, how can you determine how someone defines what is a comfortable level of living. May I remind you of the catastrophe of 2008, when many attached wealth to home ownership and investment in the stock market. I find it interesting that some would judge the circumstances of those previously noted women based on personal viewpoints regarding wealth. Remember the rant of Oprah Winfrey about being treated disrespectfully. Having personal wealth does not insulate one from stereotypical negative viewpoints of others. Nor does it guarantee that you will be viewed as a human being. That was the point being made by those women. No amount of financial assets at this current time will change viewpoints about blacks in American society. As was said by pundits about a Fortune 500 company not considering hiring Jay Z as a CEO, although he has proven himself to be a successful business man, “he is not one of us, therefore, he is not accepted in our business culture.” Let’s not confuse wealth as a determinate for associability and access. Obtaining wealth is not the problem of America or Blacks. Those who view wealth as the great equalizer remains the problem. Once obtained, you become focused on keeping it at almost any cost. That becomes the danger.

  2. JamaicanWomanAMK 29 December, 2014 at 14:15 Reply

    So true. I tried to tell fellow Black women every day that they will get nothing in return for all the marching, protesting and capping yet they wouldn’t listen. Many of them wouldn’t learn until it is too late

    • Ritchie Mayes 29 December, 2014 at 16:43 Reply

      We have to consider the times that the noted women lived in and motivations for engaging in social discourse via personal actions. Those women for the most part did not see gaining personal wealth as a component in activism. It is important that we try to understand the atmosphere during their respective times. A majority of those women were constrained by thinking about the moral implications of an oppressive society.

  3. Cassandra 29 December, 2014 at 15:40 Reply

    Really?? If you find subscribers based on that post id be surprised. I could intelligent debate the fallacies in your arguments about the connection between activism and “dying broke but I suspect there is no use. Your lone cosigner JamaicanWomen speaks volumes about your piece. Just for the record true protests and grassroot civil disobedience are not career choices but driven by passion. Non profits (which are jobs for some) support causes and to bring issues to their cause they plan protests. Rather than debate issues Ill just recognize I subscribed to the wrong blog.

  4. L, Higgins 29 December, 2014 at 22:27 Reply

    Hello Bougie Black Girl, You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. I live in Los Angeles, California. In Leimert Park they are protesting the death of another young Black man. The loudest protesters are Black women, I’m thinking 2015 is two days away, and these women are not thinking about the future. On your previous blogs you discuss the government cuts in food stamps and financial aid. But these fools are out their having an temper tantrum. They make no mention of Black women and children that have been murder by the police. They are not giving any thoughts to wealth building. In this era money is very important. Money will provide housing, food, health care and education. Extreme poverty(penury) is not a laughing matter. All of the above mention Black women activists gave there all to fight for our rights and they are barely mention today. Thank you very much for sharing this information on your blog.

  5. Evia 30 December, 2014 at 21:02 Reply

    Bougie, GREAT Job!

    I see that you mentioned Reginald Lewis, founder of Beatrice Foods and said to be the first black American billionaire. He amassed a PERSONAL fortune of $400 million. I don’t know whether you’ve mentioned this in another post, but he married a Filipino woman. When he died at age 50, he left his fortune to his Filipino wife.

    Therefore, a sizable portion of his fortune ended up in the Phillipines. I can remember how African Americans were so proud of him and black American women made sure to buy the foods his company produced.

    As we know, this is a key why black American women end up poor. They invest in people who don’t invest in them.

  6. HomesteadGlamourGirl 31 December, 2014 at 11:51 Reply

    Great post.

    Thank you Evia for the info on Reginald Lewis. We can always count on you for the follow-up.

    Ladies if you cannot keep a roof over your head or food in your mouth, you need to attend to that FIRST.

  7. Vinindy 1 January, 2015 at 05:54 Reply

    Let’s remember Rosa Parks. I don’t believe she died broke, but her Detroit home was broken into and she was beaten and robbed by a black man.the man claimed to not know who she was, sigh.

  8. kojo 20 January, 2015 at 13:04 Reply

    It’s high time African-American changed their strategies towards what they always call fight for right. For those women above made their time and they did their best. I am happy that some of us acknowledge today that riches cannot change our situations or the way other people see us. What is everybody’s part in this so called justice? We do not even love each other, how do we expect others the love us? I think we should redefine this fight. Educate ourselves and our kids. Let us be responsible. Teach our kids to be responsible rather than teaching than what we always do. I think brain fights better than arm.

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