Business

Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker First Black Female Bank PresidentWhen Maggie Lena Walker was just a teen she joined the local chapter of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal society that provided for the needs of African Americans. Walker believed in a strong community. She also believed African Americans should establish institutions within their community to strengthen it and help it thrive.

Maggie Lena Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 1864 to parents who were formerly enslaved. She attended the Richmond Normal Colored School where she trained as a teacher. After graduating, she taught for three years. At the same time she continued her education and took classes in accounting and business management.

In 1902 Walker founded the St. Luke-Herald newspaper and used the paper to encourage African Americans to grab and hold onto their power by establishing businesses and institutions. The following year she established St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and served as the bank’s first president.

During the Great Depression, when many banks failed, Walker managed to keep St. Luke Penny Savings alive by merging with two other Richmond banks. The new bank was named The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Walker served as Chairperson of the Board of Directors.

Later in her life she became partially paralyzed. Walker refused to let her paralysis stop her and continued working for the bank and her community until her death on December 15, 1934.

In 1979 Maggie Lena Walker’s Richmond home was purchased by the National Park Service and designated a National Historic Site.

Anthony Bowen

First Black YMCA in Washington
Did you know that Anthony Bowen founded the first YMCA for Black men?

Bowen was born into slavery in Prince George’s County, Maryland in 1809. Though enslaved, he found the opportunity to work off the farm. He saved the money he earned and purchased his freedom. He continued working and saving until he was able to purchase his wife’s freedom as well. When both were free they moved to Washington, DC.

When a whites-only YMCA opened in Washington, Bowen decided to form one for Black men.

Bowen was a leader in his community. He worked to establish churches and places where Black people could get together for fun and where they could be educated.

In 1853, he founded the first Colored Men’s Christian Association. Bowen served as the organization’s first president. The colored YMCA became an important part of the Black community. Its meeting rooms were used by major organizations such as the NAACP and the Negro Medical Aid Society. It was also used to house students attending historically Black Howard University. Many well-known African Americans, including Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall, spent time there.

Through the years there have been many changes and improvements to the Y. It has changed locations several times. Yet, the Anthony Bowen YMCA it is still serving the community. It is now part of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.