Your Black History: Read About The First Black-Owned Bank Chartered In America

imagesBy Victor Trammell

On March 3, 1888, a groundbreaking event paved the way for black economic power and independence in America.

The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the True Reformers (GFUOTR) was chartered by the Virginia legislature on that historic day. The GFUOTR was the first black-owned finanical institution in American history. The bank opened its doors for business on April 3, 1889.

The True Reformers bank was an extension of a fraternal organization called the United Order of the True Reformers. The history of American black capitalism began regardless of the rampant racial segregation occurring in the nation after the Civil War and during the first three decades of the 20th century.

Economic empowerment was (and still is) a major conduit for the social equality of black people. There was a growing entrepreneurial spirit that showed in the creation of black banks, insurance companies, newspapers and other businesses that exclusively served black communities across America.

Black churches and fraternal organizations played a pivotal role in the  inspiration of the black economic spirit, which aided in establishing empowerment.

At first, black churches did not possess businesses in the traditional sense. However, they did possess buildings and real estate. The churches represented the only major assets owned by blacks.

Due to the significant growth of Black-owned banks, there was also a growth of black businesses. Millions of dollars from products sold primarily to a black consumer market further enhanced the progress of black socio-economic independence.

This kind of financial cooperation was a key part of the process of establishing black commerce because white-owned financial institutions refused to grant credit and capital for black individuals and businesses. The establishment and maintenance of more black-owned institutions is still very much needed in America today.


13 Responses to Your Black History: Read About The First Black-Owned Bank Chartered In America



    Three million dollars belonging to 61,000 African Americans. That’s how much accumulated wealth vanished when the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company failed in 1874. Earlier that year, Frederick Douglass had become the bank’s President just after it moved its headquarters to a prominent location on the corner Lafayette Square, where the Treasury Annex now stands. Douglass was unaware of the rampant corruption within the bank and, once he discovered how weak the institution was, he attempted to stabilize it by investing thousands of dollars of his own funds.

    The Freedman’s Bank building was an imposing structure that cost $260,000 to build. Describing his reaction to seeing the building for the first time, Frederick Douglass wrote, “The whole thing was beautiful. I had read of this bank when I lived in Rochester, and had indeed been solicited to become one of its trustees, and had reluctantly consented to do so: but when I came to Washington and saw its magnificent brown stone front, its towering height, its perfect appointments, and the fine display it made in the transaction of its business, I felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of Solomon, that ‘half had not been told me’.”

    When it failed, the Freedman’s Savings Bank had 37 branches operating in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In the District alone over 3,000 depositors—both individuals and cultural institutions — lost their savings. The bank building was purchased by the federal government in 1882 and demolished in 1899.

    What does survive are the records of twenty-nine branches of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, including those of the Washington DC office, which are searchable at the National Archives. These records contain a wealth of information about the bank’s customers—many of whom lived the transition from slavery to freedom—including their names, employers, physical descriptions, occupations or professions, and the names of their children and/or siblings.


    Blacks had accumulated wealth back in the early 1800′s, but where is this wealth today when Blacks have a CONSUMER SPENDING POWER OF ONE TRILLION DOLLARS? Just think, 37 branches were in 17 states, but today there are only a few Black owned banks throughout the uNUTed snakes (u.s.)! Black people must STOP DEPOSITING their money in these caucasoid’s institutions when they can’t even get loans, or they are charged with a high interest rate to purchase a home or car.



  2. Phillip Battle

    Hears the deal– we can’t save no money when we run around purchasing things master deems necessary to have in order to fill like your apart of the American way. The kneegrow has developed into a spineless follower of material filth.
    Those who are in a position to create financial institutes; are to busy trying to investing in basketball teams, and baseball teams, theaters, things that aren’t as significant as a financial institute. the modern watered down kneegrow- has no sense of independence. Those Black Folk with the means to make change appears not to have the sense of uniting as a strong force of capital; as well as- thirsty Black Folk who have not a clue of what direction to go-starving for a Black Person who is well know to say or do something worthwhile–unfortunately-the mindset of our Black is at such a low-the all that glitter ain’t gold analogy- is tooken contrary to it’s meaning.
    There has to be a better way!!!!

  3. I wish we had more black banks to do business with.

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