Freedman’s Bank

Be Woke Presents Black History in Two Minutes (or so)

In 1865, after the north won the Civil War, the government opened the Freedman’s Bank. This institution was geared towards nearly four million, newly freed black people. The objective was clear: provide a federally protected place for black workers to place their funds.

By 1871, 37 branches were open in the US, with over 70,000 people depositing $60 million into this bank. This was particularly amazing considering the limited amount of wealth many emancipated blacks had just years earlier. But in 1873, a great depression happened, shifting the economy and heightening tensions nationally.

Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary from Hasan Jeffries and Vincent Brown — we look at what many would consider to be one of the leading causes of generational distrust in banking institutions for black families across the United States.

Archival Materials Courtesy of:

  • Alamy Images
  • Getty Images

Executive Producers:

  • Robert F. Smith
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  • Dyllan McGee
  • Deon Taylor

Music By:

  • Oovra Music

Be Woke presents is brought to you by Robert F. Smith and Deon Taylor.

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