Black Celebration - 8 of 28

“Let us put our money out as usury among ourselves and reap the benefit ourselves. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.”

I have been very fortunate to have lived in multiple areas very rich in Black history and achievement, and Richmond is no exception. As a familiar name to any Richmond native, Maggie L. Walker is the perfect example of boast-worthy local trailblazing.

Maggie Lena (Mitchell) Walker was the daughter of former slaves born in Church Hill in post-Civil War Richmond. Despite her background, she overcame adversity to live her life as an educator, business executive, lecturer, activist, philanthropist, and writer.

While a member of the Independent Order of St. Luke Society, Walker chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, earning her the recognition of being the first woman to charter a bank in the United States and the first African American female bank president. The bank's goal was to facilitate and secure business loans and home mortgages to the African American community, both of which were a struggle to get elsewhere; by 1920, the bank helped those in the community purchase nearly 600 homes.

As a leader, Walker brought her goals and visions to fruition by helping make tangible improvements to the way of life for African Americans. After many years of successful business, the bank absorbed several other Richmond banks owned by African Americans to become the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, which still thrives today as the oldest continually African American-operated bank in the US.

In 1978, Walker's Jackson Ward residence of thirty years was designated a National Historic Site and was opened as a museum in 1985. It commemorates the life of a progressive African American woman and the success she achieved in the world of business and finance.
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