Dr. Tyrone McKinley Freeman is a historian of philanthropy in the African-American community, whose work upends traditional views on what philanthropy is and who can be a philanthropist. He calls into question the ingrained notion that philanthropy is an area reserved exclusively for the wealthy elite.
His work centers African Americans as philanthropists within historical scholarship and broader conversations, which tend to focus almost exclusively on wealthy, white men and women as philanthropists. Freeman aims to redefine the identity of a philanthropist and what qualifies as philanthropy by demonstrating the many ways “gifts” have been constructed and given across time, both to support individuals and to foment social change.
Freeman’s work provides everyday givers and organizations with history, perspectives and tools to enhance their own generosity today. He uses interdisciplinary approaches drawn from history, philanthropic studies and Africana Studies to study people of color as philanthropists on their own terms, and challenge dominant ideas and practices in philanthropy.
Freeman earned a B.A. in English from Lincoln University (PA), a Historically Black College and University. He earned a Master’s in Urban Planning from Ball State University. His M.S. in Adult Education and Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies are from Indiana University.
He is currently Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies and the Director of Undergraduate Programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, where he researches the history of African American philanthropy, and fundraising in higher education. He holds an adjunct appointment as Associate Professor of Africana Studies at IUPUI. Also, he is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History where he works on philanthropy history projects.
Freeman’s book, Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy during Jim Crow (2020), examines African American women’s history of charitable giving and activism, and has received two national awards.
Dr. Freeman and his wife Michelle have two children, Alexander and Olivia.