Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is located in Historic Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia, the birthplace of African American entrepreneurship. It is fitting that Mrs. Walker made her home here, as she was so influential in making Jackson Ward the prosperous area that it was during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Mrs. Walker rose from humble beginnings as a helper for her laundress mother who was a freed slave, to become an outspoken advocate for equal rights for women and African Americans. Graduating at the age of 16, she became a teacher, while at the same time transforming a small benevolent society, the Order of St. Luke, into a powerful organization providing financial aid to African Americans.

Under Mrs. Walker’s guidance, the Order established a newspaper, an emporium, and in 1903, the first chartered bank in the United States founded by a black woman. The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank was one of the few Richmond banks to survive the Great Depression in 1929, and today it still thrives as the oldest continually operated African-American bank in the United States.

Mrs. Walker overcame many obstacles in her life, including the accidental killing of her husband by her son, and confinement to a wheelchair from paralysis, to serve on the boards of many national institutions, including the National Association of Colored Women and the NAACP. She was nationally known for her business and humanitarian achievements and was often visited at her home by prominent African Americans such as Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E. B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington.

Touring her beautiful Victorian home today, it is amazing to think of this woman who, against all odds, turned her life around to not only become a success in her personal life, but to inspire so many others to do the same. 

—Tracey McIntire

 

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

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