Becoming the owner of a bank is no small feat for anyone, let alone a man that was once enslaved against his will, held in chains!
However, Reverend William Washington Browne broke his shackles and became the first black owner of a bank in the United States. He established the bank for the financial needs of the black community and to make sure whites did not monitor this money.
The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers was founded on March 2, 1888.
The branch was chartered and opened in Richmond, Virginia
Side note: The first African American bank to actually open was the Capitol Savings Bank of Washington, D.C. which opened October 17, 1888. However The True Reformers bank was chatered before this!
First the bank was operated from his home and later to 604-608 North Second Street.
The bank booked despite the economic depression of 1893, it was one of the few banks that remained in full operation!
Later after his death the bank continued to do well, business expanded to real estate, loans, a newspaper, a retirement home and more! It ran operations in 24 states!
However when Reverend William Lee Taylor came to be president of the bank things went downhill. Mismanagement, embezzlement by the cashier and unsecured defaulting loans lead to closure in 1910.
About Reverend William Washington Browne…
He was born in 1849 and was enslaved in Georgia, However he escaped, joined the Union Army in the north and went onto found the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers black fraternity.
Due to racial issues with whites the frat eventually formed into the first branch of the bank.
An amazing story! Read more here: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/true-reformers-bank-1888-1910