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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. If you get this correct you get half off your admission to an upcoming National Park.
Plus its like a Black History Heritage Site. And it is all about women’s empowerment as well. So this site is a trifecta of special interest causes. 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.
The House is not big like a National Park, and not grand like a National Monument.
But within its red brick walls, its promise was boundless like the hopes and dreams of the lady who once lived there. That’s because Maggie’s little home in the Jackson Ward section of Richmond was the nucleus of African American commerce at the turn of the twentieth century. In a kitchen where collared greens were cooked, whole companies were conceived. Imagine sitting around the kitchen table and thinking, “My parents were slaves, I am a woman, and I am going to start a bank!”
Talk about gumption! Talk about a success story! This African American daughter of slaves was the first woman in America to become the president of a bona fide bank.
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. It was called "The Saint Luke Herald."
Shortly thereafter, she acted on the fact that most African Americans in Richmond were not welcome at white-owned banks. Through her newspaper she solicited blacks to “put their money together” to work for their own people.
Maggie did not just envision blacks creating joint ventures. She had a more ambitious plan. Maggie wanted to start a lending institution. So Maggie Lena Walker 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. At Consolidated, 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. Best of all, all her success, well... she EARNED it!
Said Maggie of her humble beginnings: “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!
Now if you get right to EXIT, you and your family get half off admissions to the Maggie Lena Walker House. See the place where dreams can come true!
Oh, and don’t forget. Tell ‘em RoadSpoke sent you….
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