Elizabeth McIntyre from Crain’s Cleveland Business filed a notable piece on the legacy of Freedman’s Bank recently, as the 150th anniversary works its way across the midwest. A brief excerpt:
“The Freedman’s Bank became one of the first multi-state banks in the nation, comprising 37 branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Tens of thousands of former slaves deposited more than $57 million, most in small amounts. The bank fell victim to mismanagement, fraud and the “Panic of 1873.” It closed. Most lost their savings. More than $3 million in deposits, uninsured, were gone. And historians say it may have been the genesis of a deep distrust of banks by African-Americans.
“The Freedman’s Bank still retains valuable assets more than 150 years later: the records of depositors. At the time, former slaves provided details about their addresses and a record of spouses, children, siblings and parents. The records from 29 branches still exist at the National Archives and they’re a treasure trove for 10 million African-Americans today whose ancestors were depositors. The database also is accessible online for free at FamilySearch.org.”