Using History to Build the Future
Almost a year ago, we were thrilled to officially celebrate the opening of the Carver Legacy Center. As a partner in this joint venture, American National Bank provides FDIC-insured banking and financing services that aim to help build generational wealth and a stronger community, while supporting the growth of Black-owned businesses by partially reinvesting “Carver Account” deposits back into North Omaha. What may seem to be an innovative concept, is actually a practice that has been around since the late 1800s with the first Black-owned banks.
The first Black-owned banks, a source of inspiration
Capital Savings Bank, the first Black-owned bank in the United States, opened in Washington D.C. in October 1888. According to Partnership for Progress, Capital Savings Bank provided a safe place to deposit money and “essential capital to the growth of Black businesses, capital that white-owned banks were unwilling to lend.” Additionally, the bank gave the Black community a place to learn financial education including saving, obtaining credit, and other economic lessons. Between 1888 and 1934, 134 Black banks were established.
The Penny Savings Bank opened in 1890 and has been credited with its innovation in addressing the importance of banks to the Black community. In Let Us Put our Money Together: The Founding of America’s First Black Banks by Tim Todd, the founder, William Pettiford is quoted as, “…being thoroughly interested in our people, we went to them, not simply to get their money, but to get them as well. We labored to convince our listeners to our addresses…that we were interested in their education, their being good husbands and good wives, in their being good laborers, both public and domestic, and that they should succeed by accumulating something. We make the money matters, as related to the bank, incidental instead of making it the main object.” In addition, the bank utilized what was considered at the time unconventional, a loan structure for purchasing property that allowed for smaller down payments and lower interest rates over longer periods of time. (Mortgages at the time often required a large down payment with only a five-year term.)
Black-Owned Carver Savings and Loan helps build a community
The original Carver Savings and Loan, Nebraska’s first Black-owned bank, opened in Omaha in 1944 with a similar purpose as the early Black-owned banks—actively invest deposits back into the African-American community to allow for home and business ownership, while empowering the citizens to safely and confidently access traditional banking services. The bank leaders recognized the redlining that had occurred after the race riots of 1919 continued to affect the people of the neighborhood and access to credit and services were not offered to the people of North Omaha.
Adam Sasse, author of northomahahistory.org writes in his blog about Carver Savings and Loan, “…these leaders saw the need for African American funding to foster Black home ownership and investment in Omaha’s Black community. Noting that the Black population of the neighborhood had boomed in the previous 25 years, Davis himself told the media that investment in the area had dropped precipitously and implied racism was the cause. Because of that, the need for the Carver Bank was obvious.” According to Sasse, a special lending program designed for African-American homebuyers allowed Black families to purchase “more homes within three years than in the preceding decade through other banks in the city.”
Carver Savings and Loan closed in 1965, but access to credit, financial literacy and basic banking services remained a concern in North Omaha as it does nationwide.
The Carver Initiative: Innovation making a difference
The FDIC’s 2021 data on Minority Depository Institutions reports that only 16 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings associations are considered Black or African-American owned and three are described as Minority Board serving the African-American Community.
There are no Black-owned banks within the ANB footprint and that’s why the Carter Legacy Center is so important. Sometimes innovation breeds accomplishment. Building on the history, importance and mission of the original Black-owned banks, the Carver Legacy Center partners with ANB to provide banking services and relies on those who open “Carver accounts” to help fund the future of the North Omaha community. Like its predecessors, it also aims to offer support and education through its HUB and Accelerators and the Revive Omaha store and Pop-up Incubator.
Carver accounts can be opened at any ANB location or at the monthly community days at the Carver located at 2416 Lake Street in Omaha (in the building of the original Carver Savings and Loan).
First Vice President and Community Development Officer
Ernest White, ANB First Vice President and Community Development Officer, is also a Carver Ambassador and a strong supporter of the Carver initiative and the North Omaha community. He regularly works with Carver clients to guide them through the loan process by introducing them to agencies that can help write business plans and provides continual communication and follow-up long after loans are closed. He serves on 12 boards with ties to the North Omaha community and regularly speaks at schools about financial literacy.
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