This Day In History: November 2nd
Businesswoman Maggie L. Walker established the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank on November 2, 1903, and helped to turn the pennies of Richmond’s black residents into thousands of dollars. Walker’s business venture made her the first black woman to open a bank and she used her position to employ other black women.
On opening day the bank received more than $9,000 in deposits from its supporters. By the time the bank opened, Walker already had an established reputation as an advocate and businesswoman. As a teenager, she joined the Independent Order of St. Luke’s which was a benevolent society. She was able to serve in high positions within the organization including the role of grand secretary.
Under Walker’s leadership, the organization was able to recover from bankruptcy and increase membership. She recognized the importance of financial stability in the efforts to advance the Black community and began her plans to open a bank. She prepared by observing the town’s white financial institutions and recruited other individuals who possessed knowledge of the banking industry. Walker opened the bank in 1903 and served as its first president until 1929.
St. Luke Penny Savings Bank allowed its members access to home and business loan opportunities without the use of predatory practices. The bank was also convenient for working-class residents because she accepted small deposits and even distributed banks to encourage people to save money at home.
In addition to being a financial literacy advocate, Walker was also active in other civic organizations including the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the Richmond chapter of the NAACP. All of her community engagement helped to expand the membership of the bank so by the time of the Great Depression in 1929, Walker was busy working to save the beloved financial institution she established.
Walker merged St. Luke Penny Savings Bank with the Commercial Bank and Trust Company as well as the Second Street Savings Bank. All three black-owned banks merged to form a new institution, Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. During the economic crisis, the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company was able to withstand the hardship. The bank continued operating until succumbing to mergers and shutting down in 2011.
In honor of her legacy, Maggie Walker’s home in Richmond was designated a National Historic Site by the National Park Service.