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EXIT of the DAY: Exit 75 I-95s: To Jackson Ward, Richmond Virginia
Ok Road Trippers listen up. Time for a Road Test. So now listen well to the Fast Facts.
You are approaching the Exit to a special place. It is called the Maggie Lena Walker House and it is operated by the National Park Service. Maggie’s former home in the Jackson Ward section of Richmond was the center of African American commerce at the turn of the twentieth century.
Talk about a success story, this African American daughter of slaves was the first female bank president in The United States.
All along the highway you see billboards. Likely you see signs for banks like Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, and here in Virginia, you see a lot of PNC Banks.
Well now, it is time for the Fast Facts:
Born to slaves in Richmond, Virginia at the end of the Civil War, Maggie Lena Walker grew up an avid student. She excelled in both math and Bible studies. In her twenties, she became an active member of The Independent Order of Saint Luke which was a Christian Society that encouraged self-help amongst African Americans.
Then Maggie did something that today we would call, “Extending the brand.” In 1902, Maggie Lena Walker started a newspaper for the organization, "The Saint Luke Herald."
Shortly thereafter, she perceived that most African Americans in Richmond were not welcome at white banks. Through the newspaper she solicited blacks to “put their money together” to work for their own people. Said Maggie, "Let us put our nickels together and turn them into dollars." So Maggie chartered “Saint Luke’s Penny Savings Bank.”
Maggie was the bank's first president, which earned her the recognition of being the first woman — anywhere in the United States — to start a bank. Pretty cool eh?
During the same time she married and almost lost her life giving birth to her first child. Ultimately she and her husband, Armstead, raised 3 children.
Later, Maggie merged Saint Luke’s Penny Savings Bank with two other Richmond banks to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Maggie served as the bigger bank’s Chairman of the Board.
This represented several Firsts for women in America none the least was that the daughter of slaves became the First Woman CEO of a Bank. Said Maggie, “I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but instead, with a clothes basket almost upon my head."
Newspaper publisher, bank president, business woman, wife and Mom, as someone else might say, "Only in America…”
Now for the Road Test: what was Maggie’s full name?
You have three seconds.
Three… and two… and one. Her name was Maggie Lena Walker and don’t forget it!
#The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company #SaintLukeHerald #SaintLuke #MaggieLenaWalker #RichmondVirginia #CivilWar
Forty Acres and a Mule
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EXIT of the DAY: EXIT 8 I-95s: Road 13, To Switzerland, Beaufort, South Carolina, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
'In November 1861 the Union Navy attacked nearby Port Royal Sound and for the rest of The Civil War, Union Troops occupied South Carolina's Sea Islands.
Meanwhile local Whites fled their plantations, abandoning about 10,000 slaves. The Union had not planned on this turn of events. Suddenly they were responsible for thousands of people who previously had no experience as freed people.
With no provisions for refugees, The Union could only ask that the slaves stay and continue to farm.
During the first year of occupation African American field hands successfully harvested approximately 90,000 pounds of cotton. The workers were paid one dollar for every 400 pounds harvested. Thus, these people became the first freed slaves to earn wages for their labor.
This soon evolved to become the so-called Port Royal Experiment.
While the farmers struggled through the war to make a success of their farms, Union missionaries, teachers, ministers and doctors volunteered to help promote this experiment. Freed people built hospitals and schools. In schools, math and literature were taught for the first time.
The experiment was such a success that in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued new land redistribution policies that allowed nearly 40,000 acres of abandoned Confederate plantations to be divided among 16,000 families of the “African race.” But the land was not free. The freed people had to purchase the land. Families were each offered 40 acres each — which became known as the slogan that success could be found with just “40 acres and a mule”. Almost immediately blacks bought about 2,000 acres of land.
In part due to the success of the Black Farmers in Port Royal, Lincoln became convinced that African Americans could possibly be effective Soldiers. He sought soldiers from the population and was overwhelmed by the response of those who volunteered to join the Union Cause.
It was only the assassination of Lincoln in April 1865, however, that ended momentum. The new president, despite being a resentful poor white Southerner, Andrew Johnson was determined to restore all lands back to the previous white elite “Planter Class”.
Nonetheless not all white owners returned to the Sea Islands. So thousands of black families continued to farm their lands until well into the 20th century and even until today.
#13thAmendment #Slavery #Freedom #Free #AbeLincoln #Confederacy #SeaIslands #AndrewJohnson #blacks #PortRoyalExperiment