Maggie Lena Walker: How the daughter of a former slave became a banking pioneer

John Mullin of Richmond Fed in this article pays tribute to Maggie Lena Walker the first Black woman to establish a bank in the United States:

Maggie Lena Walker built the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank to last. When it opened its doors in Richmond’s Jackson Ward district in 1903, Walker became the first Black woman to establish a bank in the United States. She would stand at its helm as president for nearly 30 years, safely steering it through periodic bouts of economic turmoil, eventually increasing its assets more than tenfold. To cap off her career, she would solidify the bank’s long-term prospects by orchestrating mergers with two other banks during the depths of the Great Depression.

“The merged firm, the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, didn’t just outlast the Great Depression,” says Ethan Bullard, curator at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond. “It lasted into the 21st century and became the nation’s longest continuously run Black-owned bank.”

After founding the bank, Walker became a prominent public figure. A charismatic orator who infused her speeches with evocative biblical references, she addressed audiences throughout the country, championing Black racial pride and economic empowerment. She associated with the most important Black intellectuals and reformers of her time, including Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey. These leaders, each in his or her own way, attempted to chart a path toward Black success during what many historians regard as the low point in post-Civil War race relations — the period after Reconstruction’s end in 1877 through the early part of the 20th century, an era that saw the expansion of Jim Crow segregation and Black voter disfranchisement.

Walker’s practical vision — much in line with that of Booker T. Washington — helped place her at the center of a Black business boom in Richmond. The ascent of Jim Crow laws reinforced a desire among Black Americans to form their own businesses and to practice the dictum “don’t shop where you can’t work.” Under these conditions, Richmond’s Jackson Ward district developed into what historians in a Works Progress Administration report later called the most important center of Black American business activity in the world.



One Response to “Maggie Lena Walker: How the daughter of a former slave became a banking pioneer”

  1. Maggie Lena Walker: How the daughter of a former slave turned a banking pioneer – 52weekshares Says:

    […] micro etc, Financial Markets/ Finance. You possibly can observe any responses to this entry by the RSS 2.0 feed. You possibly can leave a response, or trackback from your individual […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: