Fed celebrates Freedman’s at 150

Don’t miss the rich history of Freedman’s Bank, now on display at the Federal Reserve….

including original artwork and passbooks, from some of the bank’s original $57 million in deposits.

Although the bank failed through poor government regulatory policy and mismanagement leading into the Panic of 1873, its mission was a noble one, and still timely given economic conditions today.

The exhibit, marking the 150th anniversary of Freedmans, will also travel to Atlanta and Cleveland later this year.

Too big to be the cause….
3 1/2 cheers for Peter Wallison

For nearly seven years, analysts have run circles around the bailout of large banks, automakers, and other firms deemed too big to fail during the 2008 financial crisis.

And while no one denies the economic importance of these institutions, it may be that when it comes to understanding the U.S. economic malaise in the years since, these actors are, in a sense, “too big to be the cause” as well.

That’s the conclusion we’re coming to based on the work of economist Peter Wallison in his persuasive book, Hidden in Plain Sight. (Reviewed here by The Wall Street Journal.)

A more likely culprit is the fate of small- and medium- sized banks over the same time period, under the disproportionately large burden imposed on them by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

It’s a classic truism that smaller institutions have higher average costs dealing with regulation. They must meet the fixed cost of dealing with all those rules and bureaucrats just like any large bank. But they may not spread the overall cost efficiently over a balance sheet in the billions or trillions…

Furthermore, small businesses still (at least up until this recovery) account for an estimated 80-90 percent of new jobs.

And, because they come nowhere close to meeting the capital requirements for listing on a stock exchange or even for most private offerings, small businesses are almost completely reliant on banks for their financing needs.

Hence the squeeze placed on smaller financial institutions is especially painful to growth and opportunity, a double whammy.

It’s an important topic, one we keep coming back to because it’s so near and dear to the Freedman’s Mission.

Dodd-Frank’s continuing Legacy

It is now five years since President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act, continuing the work begun by the bank bailouts of 2008-2009 –

which critics argue includes putting the squeeze on small banks and the small- and medium-sized firms that used to rely on them.

“Dodd-Frank’s backers in Congress and other members of the left touted the regulation as a means of helping Main Street over Wall Street,” writes Carrie Sheffield in Forbes
“Yet the number of community banks fell by 40 percent since 1994, and their share of U.S. banking assets fell by more than half – from 41 percent to 18 percent.

“In contrast, the biggest banks saw their share of assets rise from 18 percent to 46 percent. And while the number of community banks already declined before the crisis, since the second quarter of 2010 – Dodd-Frank’s passage – community banks have lost market share at a rate double what they did between Q2 2006 and Q2 2010: 12 percent vs. 6 percent.”

Dodd-Frank’s regulatory burdens, another critic argues, “are driving consolidation, and could result in lending markets less able to serve core economic demands.” Particularly troubling, according to lead author Marshall Lux, a senior fellow at HKS’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government and senior advisor at The Boston Consulting Group, “is community banks’ declining market share in several key lending markets, their decline in small business lending volume, and the disproportionate losses being realized by particularly small community banks.”

Vast Freedman’s collection released

Acting in cooperation with the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution, Family Search International, is releasing an estimated 1.5 million images that contain the names of more than 4 million African-American slaves eventually freed at the end of the Civil War.

The materials were originally collected by the Freedman’s Bureau, organized to help former slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia after the end of the war.

“African Americans who tried to research their family history before 1870 hit a brick wall because before 1870 their ancestors who were slaves and showed up as tics or hash marks on paper,” said Paul Nauta, spokesman for FamilySearch. “They didn’t have a name. The slave master would just have tick marks.”

The release italicizes the impressive support given to the cause of family and community development by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which FamilySearch is a subsidiary.

More details from a recent report in The Washington Post.

Africa trip summer 2014

kd.ibaka.prosMeet Sister Rosemary (nearby photo, center), NFL star Ray Lewis, basketball’s Serge Ibaka…

and do something to promote medical care and education for Africa children…

during the summer trip by our friends and colleagues at Pros for Africa.

For more information, contact trips@freedmans.net.

Black families recapture their history


Tracing Family History Gets Easier for Descendants of American Slaves,” the Voice of America reports:


This is one of many benefits from the Freedman’s Renaissance that began circa 1998, and continues today.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons, meticulously transcribed and then indexed thousands of Freedman’s Bank microfilm records onto a single compact disc,” VOA reports. “More than 500 inmates at Utah State Prison did much of the painstaking work on their own time, not as assigned prison labor.”

Here’s an example of one record on the disc:

“Amanda Harris, brought up – Atlanta, Georgia. No age given. Complexion – yellow. Occupation – ‘at home.’ Husband – Thomas. Children – Rosa, Bell, Robert, Carol (dead), three died young. Was carried to Atlanta as a child. Taken from her mother by the traders. Was too small to know any of her relatives.”

Indeed, it was the Freedman’s Bureau, in the years after the Civil War, that helped many former slaves, previously barred from formalizing their union, to gain marriage certificates like the one above.

Freedman’s summer interns

summer study and internship opportunitiesUniversity of Wisconsin students Ted Murphy and Rachel Johnson will serve as 2014 summer interns, performing research on health care and gaps in basic human services in their state.

Internships are still available for summer and fall; contact martin@freedmans.net for more information.

Housing help

Freedman’s is working in partnership with the Salvation Army, Lydia’s House, the state of Wisconsin, and others to provide short-term housing assistance to displaced families and individuals in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin this winter.

As of this writing, Freedman’s direct grants and staff advocates have provided more than a dozen families with up to several weeks of safe, comfortable housing in communities such as Dubuque, Madison, and Peoria.

“We couldn’t have made it without this,” comments A. Brown, pictured nearby. “Thank you Freedman’s.”