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Minority Banking Timeline


Free Labor Bank

Civil War Band

The first military bank, the Free Labor Bank, was established by General N.P. Banks in New Orleans to provide a secure repository for black Civil War soldiers and formerly enslaved persons.

The Civil War offered 180,000 African Americans an opportunity to serve their country and make a steady wage. It was an opportune time for learning thrift and economy; thus, the first military bank, the Free Labor Bank, was organized to provide financial services to African-American soldiers, freedmen who owned land, and freedmen who worked on government-seized plantations. Two other sites were opened in South Carolina and Virginia, where a large number of African-American soldiers were stationed.

The soldiers deposited a portion of their pay, which was saved for a relative or for the soldier's use at a future date. Sad to say, many of the soldiers did not understand how banks worked, and they left nearly $200,000 unclaimed in the bank at the end of the war. The government would use these funds as seed money for the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.


  • Mauris Lee Porter Emeka, Black Banks, Past and Present. (Kansas City, Missouri: Mauris L.P. Emeka, 1971), pp. 8-9.
  • The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War External Link (accessed May 2, 2008)
  • Daniel Immergluck, Credit to the Community: Community Reinvestment and Fair Lending Policy. (New York, M.E. Sharpe, 2004), p. 55.

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