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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: First U.S. banks established for freed African Americans
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Roger Allen - photo by Special

    Note: The following is part of a series of columns looking at the establishment and evolution of the banking system in Georgia and Bulloch County.

    The first banks established specifically for blacks were the Negro Military Banks, established by Union commanders in New Orleans; Norfolk, Va.; and then in Beaufort, S.C.
    Reverend John W. Alvord, General Sherman's attaché, met with wealthy philanthropists at NYC's National Exchange Bank Jan. 27, 1865 to talk about forming a Freedman's Bank.
    Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, an avowed abolitionist, wrote the bill chartering The Freedmen's Bank in NYC on April 4, 1865. Alvord was made the bank's corresponding secretary.
    The Freedman's Bank was not a part of the government-run Freedmen's Bureau. Alvord, however, also served as the Freedmen's Bureau's secretary of education and its superintendent of schools.
    Four TFB branches were opened in Georgia: Savannah, Augusta, Macon and Atlanta. American Missionary Association cashiers were appointed to run the branches: I.W. Brinkerhoff in Savannah; Charles Prince in Augusta; and Philip Cory in Atlanta.
    Pamphlets were distributed. They asked, "Why should you all put money in Savings Banks?"  The answer: "Because, being your own master, it is your duty to provide your settlement in life, for your families …"
    In 1874, Congress closed TFB largely because of thievery by bank employees. Dr. Purvis, a black TFB trustee from Philadelphia, wrote, "The cashiers at most of the branches were a set of scoundrels and thieves."
    Reverend Philip Corey, TFB Atlanta branch cashier, was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing over $8,000. Quite astonishingly, Corey was pardoned when he agreed to serve as an Indian Agent out west.

'Negro Banking' in the United States
    Black businessman Harry H. Pace, president of Northeastern Life Insurance, wrote "The Business of Banking among Negroes" in the February 1927 issue of The Crisis, the official NAACP journal.
    Pace wrote, "In the million-dollar class, there are two (black-run) banks worthy of especial mention." One of them was the Wage Earners Savings Bank, formed in Savannah in 1900.
    He explained, "The Wage Earners Savings Bank … under the guidance of Lucius E. Williams … exceeded every other Negro bank in deposits (and) was the first bank of the race to have a million dollars on deposit."
    Pace declared, "With depositors in almost every state, (the Wage Earners) has probably helped more Negro business ventures to success than any other Negro bank."
    The next largest black banks were the Metropolitan Savings Bank (associated with the Metro. Mutual Benefit Assoc. & Metro. Mercantile & Realty Co.), Afro-American Savings Bank (associated with the Afro-Amer. Loan & Invest. Co.), and the Union Savings Bank.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at

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