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The Federal Reserve’s data reveals a troubling disparity: Black individuals, irrespective of their income, are twice as likely as white individuals to face credit denials. This discriminatory practice, commonly called redlining, has played a significant role in creating wealth disparities between Black and white households. Such disparities highlight the importance of addressing the systemic barriers that prevent equitable access to credit for Black communities.
And this is where black-owned banks come into play. Black-owned banks are crucial in addressing the racial wealth gap by providing a secure and encouraging environment for individuals to store, utilize, and enhance their financial resources.
In the United States, there is an evident disparity in wealth distribution, but these black-owned banks play a significant role in mitigating this imbalance. They offer a safe and supportive place for people to manage and expand their money, ensuring everyone can access equitable financial opportunities.
A Brief History of Racism in the Banking Industry
The history of racism in banking is deeply rooted in systemic discrimination and unequal access to financial services based on race. One prominent example is the practice of redlining, which refers to the systematic denial of loans, credit, and banking services to individuals and communities based on their racial or ethnic background.
This discriminatory practice, prevalent in the mid-20th century, disproportionately affected Black Americans, limiting their ability to purchase homes and build wealth.
Additionally, discriminatory lending practices such as predatory and subprime mortgage lending disproportionately targeted minority communities, leading to higher foreclosure rates and exacerbating wealth disparities.
African Americans and other minority groups were often subjected to higher interest rates, less favorable terms, and outright denial of loans compared to their white counterparts, despite similar income levels.
Even after the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977, which aimed to combat discriminatory practices, racial disparities in banking and access to credit persist.
Studies have shown that Black individuals face higher denial rates for mortgages and small business loans and limited access to banking services in underserved communities. Black-owned banks seemed the only appropriate solution to this pressing problem.
What Makes a Bank Black-Owned?
A bank is considered black-owned when owned and controlled by African American or African descent individuals. The ownership structure and control within the bank are vital factors in determining its classification as a black-owned institution.
These banks were established to address black communities’ unique financial needs and challenges. By being owned and operated by individuals from these communities, black-owned banks aim to promote economic empowerment, foster financial inclusion, and contribute to narrowing the racial wealth gap.
Who Owned the First Minority-Owned Bank?
African Americans have long faced systemic racism and economic inequality in the United States. This has been especially true regarding banking, where African Americans have historically been denied access to capital, credit, and other financial services.
In response to this injustice, a group of African American business leaders came together in 1865 to form the first black-owned bank in the United States: the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (Freedman’s Bank).
The establishment of Freedman’s Bank was a direct result of the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. During this period, African Americans were granted full citizenship rights and were eager to take advantage of new opportunities for economic advancement.
However, they faced significant obstacles due to entrenched racism and discrimination from white-owned banks. Recognizing this need for financial inclusion, Congress passed legislation that allowed for the creation of Freedman’s Bank.
Depositors of Freedman’s Bank included prominent African American leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Blanche K. Bruce, John Mercer Langston, and Robert Tanner Freeman. These individuals deeply understood African Americans’ challenges at the time and saw an opportunity to create a bank that would serve their community’s needs. They believed that by providing access to capital and credit, they could help African Americans build wealth and gain greater economic security.
Freedman’s Bank opened its doors in 1865 across several states, including Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
It quickly became a famous institution among African Americans who saw it as a safe place to save money without fear of discrimination or exploitation from white-owned banks. The bank also provided loans at low-interest rates, enabling many people to purchase homes or start businesses.
Despite its initial success, however, Freedman’s Bank eventually ran into financial difficulties due to mismanagement by its directors as well as fraud by some employees. As a result of these issues, combined with an overall lack of liquidity in the banking system due to post-war economic conditions, the bank was forced into receivership in 1874 and closed its doors shortly after that.
Although Freedman’s Bank ultimately failed, it left an important legacy that continues today. Providing access to capital and credit helped pave the way for future generations of African Americans seeking economic empowerment.
Furthermore, its existence served as an inspiration for other minority-owned banks like the ones listed below. These institutions continue providing much-needed financial services within their communities while helping break down barriers between minority groups and mainstream banking institutions.
In conclusion, Freedman’s Bank was an important milestone in Black American history. Its establishment helped open new economic opportunities while inspiring future generations of minority-owned banks.
Although it ultimately failed due to mismanagement, fraud, and broader economic conditions at the time, its legacy lives on through these institutions, which continue to provide much-needed financial services within their communities today.
10 Most Influential Black-Owned Financial Institutions
1. OneUnited Bank
OneUnited Bank, founded in 1968, is a distinguished black-owned financial institution based in the United States. It has emerged as the largest black-owned bank, proudly serving the African American community and beyond. OneUnited Bank traces its roots to Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, the first black-owned bank in the country, and the first black internet bank, Unity Bank & Trust.
With a mission to foster economic empowerment, the bank offers a comprehensive range of services, including personal and business banking, home loans, and online banking solutions. OneUnited Bank stands at the forefront of promoting financial literacy, community development, and closing the racial wealth gap, embodying a steadfast commitment to advancing economic equality and prosperity for all.
2. Liberty Bank and Trust
Liberty Bank and Trust, established in 1972, is a distinguished black-owned financial institution based in the United States. It has a rich history rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, emerging as a beacon of economic empowerment for black communities. With its origins in New Orleans, Liberty Bank played a pivotal role in providing banking services and loans to African American entrepreneurs and homeowners, enabling them to build wealth and achieve their dreams.
Today, Liberty Bank continues to thrive as a trusted financial partner, offering a wide range of services, including personal and business banking, mortgages, and community development initiatives. Committed to bridging the racial wealth gap, Liberty Bank remains a symbol of resilience and empowerment, dedicated to supporting the financial needs of minority communities and fostering economic growth.
3. Carver Federal Savings Bank
Carver Federal Savings Bank, headquartered in New York City, is the largest African-American-operated bank in the United States. With a rich history dating back to 1948, Carver Federal Savings Bank has consistently served as a financial pillar for minority communities, playing a pivotal role in fostering economic development and empowerment.
The bank offers comprehensive financial products and services, including personal and business banking solutions, mortgages, home equity loans, and investment options. Carver Federal Savings Bank is deeply committed to addressing the unique needs of its customers and providing tailored financial solutions that help individuals and businesses thrive.
With a strong emphasis on community engagement, the bank actively supports initiatives and organizations that promote financial literacy, affordable housing, and entrepreneurship, significantly impacting the communities it serves.
4. Industrial Bank
Doyle Mitchell, Jr., the current President, and CEO of Industrial Bank, carries on the legacy of his grandfather, who founded the bank in 1934. After graduating with an economics degree from Rutgers University in 1984, Mitchell joined Industrial Bank full-time and quickly made his mark. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1990 and took over as president in 1993, succeeding his father.
Under his leadership, Industrial Bank has flourished, boasting over 100 employees and hundreds of million dollars in assets. With ten banking centers spread across D.C., New Jersey, New York, and Maryland, the bank offers a wide range of services, including checking, savings, investments, and mobile banking.
Doyle Mitchell, Jr. embodies a deep commitment to the bank’s mission of serving underserved communities. He has successfully steered Industrial Bank towards growth and impact, remaining true to its core values. With a focus on financial inclusion and empowerment, the bank has become a trusted pillar of stability and progress.
Combining its rich history with modern technology, Industrial Bank continues to provide accessible banking solutions to individuals and businesses. Under Mitchell’s visionary leadership, the bank is poised to embrace a future of community empowerment and financial well-being, staying at the forefront of the black-owned banking sector.
5. Citizens Trust Bank
Citizens Trust Bank, a prominent black-owned financial institution, has established itself as a trusted banking partner for individuals and businesses alike. With a history dating back to 1921, this Atlanta-based bank has consistently prioritized community development and economic empowerment.
While it offers online banking services, it truly shines as an in-person institution, providing a variety of checking accounts and the possibility to waive monthly fees. However, it’s important to note that Citizens Trust Bank may not offer the most competitive interest rates on savings accounts, so individuals seeking higher returns might explore other options.
In addition to its commitment to community engagement, Citizens Trust Bank holds the distinction of being designated as a minority-led financial institution (MDI) by the FDIC. Its focus on serving predominantly minority communities aligns with its mission to address the racial wealth gap that exists in the United States.
Moreover, as a certified community development financial institution (CDFI), Citizens Trust Bank actively works to remove barriers to banking access. By providing financial education resources, supporting initiatives such as residential mortgage lending to people of color, and offering a range of banking products and services, Citizens Trust Bank stands as a beacon of opportunity and empowerment within the banking industry.
6. Broadway Federal Bank (Now City First Bank)
Broadway Federal Bank, established in 1947 and headquartered in Los Angeles, California, has steadily grown to become a medium-sized bank with assets totaling $412 million and deposits of $294 million. While it may lack premium customer service features such as live chat or all-day service, Broadway Federal Bank makes up for it with its traditional brick-and-mortar presence, complemented by online and mobile banking options.
Broadway Federal Bank offers a comprehensive range of banking products, including savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, CDs, IRAs, and credit cards. While its savings rate is considered fair compared to the average savings account, the bank provides a checking account option that does not charge maintenance or monthly fees, making it suitable for everyday use.
If you’re looking to maximize your earnings on deposits while maintaining easy access to your funds, combining Broadway Federal Bank’s free checking account with its competitive savings APY would be a wise choice.
Whether you prefer the convenience of online banking or appreciate the personalized service of in-person banking, Broadway Federal Bank offers the flexibility to cater to your financial needs.
With its strong track record and commitment to providing a full array of banking services, Broadway Federal Bank stands as a reliable and accessible option for individuals and businesses seeking a trusted banking partner.
7. GN Bank
GN Bank is a Black-owned financial institution that prioritizes giving back to the community. While it may not offer the highest interest rates, it provides customers with the opportunity to support a bank that focuses on social impact.
With branches in Chicago and a large network of free ATMs, GN Bank ensures convenient access to banking services. However, it’s important to note that interest rates on most accounts are relatively low, and the money market account lacks certain conveniences like a debit card or paper checks.
One of GN Bank’s notable products is the Statement Savings Account, which offers a modest 0.01% APY. Customers can waive the monthly service fee by maintaining a $250 balance. The Retail Checking Account requires a $100 balance to avoid a $15 monthly service fee. While GN Bank offers competitive rates for longer-term CDs, individuals seeking higher rates may find better options at online banks.
The Money Market Account, with its $2,500 minimum deposit and monthly service fee, may not be as appealing when compared to money market accounts offered by online banks. Ultimately, individuals interested in supporting a Black-owned bank and benefiting from a wide ATM network may find GN Bank appealing, but those seeking higher interest rates and more convenience may prefer online bank alternatives.
8. Unity National Bank
Unity National Bank, a Black-owned institution with branches in Texas and Georgia, offers competitive CD rates but may not be the best choice for those prioritizing no monthly service fees. Their Personal Savings Account provides a 1.50% APY with a $100 minimum deposit, while the Advantage Checking Account requires a $1,500 balance to waive the monthly fee.
While Unity National Bank offers solid CD rates, individuals seeking the best rates may find better options online. The Money Market Account requires a $2,500 balance to avoid fees and provides easy access to funds. Unity National Bank supports the Black community, but individuals looking for higher interest rates and no monthly fees may consider online banks or credit unions.
9. Mechanics & Farmers Bank (M&F)
Mechanics & Farmers Bank, the only Black-owned bank in North Carolina, stands out as a top choice among banks and credit unions in the state. With its certified status as a community development financial institution, it serves low-income communities and offers an excellent free high-yield checking account.
However, it’s important to note that savings and money market accounts come with monthly service fees unless you qualify for waivers. While Mechanics & Farmers Bank provides valuable in-person banking options, online banks may offer more competitive interest rates on savings and money market accounts.
10. Harbor Bank of Maryland
Harbor Bank of Maryland, a well-established black-owned financial institution, has been catering to the needs of its community for over 35 years. The bank focuses on urban economic development and offers various banking services, including personal and business accounts, loans, mortgages, and investmBankoptions.
Harbor Bank supports affordable housing, small business growth, and financial education initiatives. By providing accessible financial solutions and fostering community empowerment, Harbor Bank of Maryland is vital in driving economic progress and creating lasting change.
Frequently Asked Questions
What bank is owned by a Black woman?
The First Independence Bank, the first black female bank in the US, was formed in 1970. This Detroit-based bank has multiple branches and serves Detroit communities’ financial and business needs.
Which is the largest Black-owned bank?
OneUnited has over $6 Billion of assets and is the largest minority-owned bank in the United States.
What happened to Black-owned banks?
Black-owned banks have a long history in the Banked States, with the oldest still in business being Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Company, established in 1904. However, many banks have been forced to close over the years due to a lack of capital or other financial issues.
Despite this, many Black-owned banks across the country still continue to serve their communities, although the numbers dropped from 47 in 2002 to 17 in 2020.
What is the first Black-owned bank in the United States?
The first black-owned bank in America was the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, established in 1865. The bank was founded with the intention of helping newly freed African Americans to save money and gain access to financial services that were not available to them before.