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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Women Entrepreneurs

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Maggie Lena Walker

A strong voice for education, Maggie Lena Walker became the first African American female bank president. Courtesy the Witherspoon Collection, Valentine Museum, Richmond, Virginia.

From age fourteen, Maggie Lena Walker (1867–1934) was a member of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization founded by a former slave dedicated to the uplifting of African Americans. After becoming leader of the Order when it was on the verge of financial ruin, Walker became the first female bank president in the United States by founding the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. Succeeding in her twin goals of revitalizing the Order of St. Luke and encouraging economic security for the black community of Richmond, Virginia, Walker grew her business by welcoming small depositors and helping to finance black home ownership. Her success is evidenced by the fact that the bank, now named the Consolidated Bank and Trust Co., remains open today as the oldest continuously black-owned bank in the United States. True to the Order of St Luke's goal of uplifting African Americans, Walker went on to found other businesses and advocate tirelessly for black rights and women's suffrage throughout her life.

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