Join us on Wednesday, February 9th from 3:30 - 5:00PM, for the first session of the history department colloquium series where Professor Justene Hill Edwards will be presenting a paper titled, The Freedman's Bank and the Challenges of Black Economic Equality in Reconstruction America."
Sign up for the event here, https://virginia.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEvd-6vqD4iGtRWBdieWdTfmfAuRiHUD0It.
"White philanthropists and bankers contended that they created the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company with one overarching purpose in mind: to usher former African-American slaves into the postbellum era through formal participation in the financial services industry. Signed into existence by President Abraham Lincoln in March 1865, the Freedman’s Bank represented the promise of the Civil War: full access to citizenship and the dream of capitalist enterprise for former slaves. Though the bank grew quickly, with African American depositors pouring their hard-earned wages into bank accounts, mismanagement by the bank’s white administrators precipitated the bank’s demise. In 1874, a mere nine years after the bank’s founding, the bank closed. The closing devastated a generation of African Americans who were struggling to establish economic stability. Though a small group of scholars have interrogated the Freedman’s Banks’ complicated history and ultimate failure, no historian has fully considered how the bank’s failure shifted African Americans’ relationship to America’s banks and financial institutions—a shift that had generational effects on African Americans. This paper will consider how former slaves’ understandings of capitalism informed their perspective on the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company. This paper will explore how the Freedman’s Bank ultimately failed to live up to its intended purpose, and in the process, became a startling example for how the American government and the American banking industry perpetuated economic inequality at the precise moment when African Americans were yearning for a ladder to full economic freedom."