Updated: Feb 20, 2020
In the middle of black history month, we couldn’t pass up the chance to feature a financial ambassador, Maggie Lena Walker, whose achievements in the early 20th century are
Walker was the first African American woman to charter a bank in the United States despite the obstacles outlined in Notable Black American Women. As president of the bank, she used her influence and position to create opportunities for others. Chartered on July 28, 1903, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the bank Walker founded, still operates in Richmond, Va. In 1930 Walker’s bank merged with two other black-owned banks, the Commercial and 2nd Street, to form the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Until its purchase in 2005 by the Abigail Adams National Bancorp Inc. it was the oldest continually operated black-owned bank in the country. In 2009, the bank was bought by Premier Financial Bancorp Inc. and merged with four subsidiaries to form Premier Bank (Richomondfed.org).
Not only was she a bank president, but she also started a newspaper and a department store and ran a nationwide insurance system. Ms. Walker spread the tools of economic independence in the era of Jim Crow, and she hired and trained black women at a time when even white women struggled for the opportunity.
Walker once said: “If our women want to avoid the traps and snares of life, they must
band themselves together, organize, acknowledge leadership, ...and make work and business for themselves.” (Richomondfed.org).
Although in American History, Walker was not unique in establishing financial institutions. However, Maggie Walker’s distinction lies in the fact that she was an African-American female bank president and that the bank she established operated for over 100 years.
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