Cautiously Capitalistic: Black Economic Agency At The Savings Bank Of Baltimore, 1850-1900
MetadataShow full item record
Type of WorkText
DepartmentHistory and Geography
ProgramDoctor of Philosophy
RightsThis item is made available by Morgan State University for personal, educational, and research purposes in accordance with Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law. Other uses may require permission from the copyright owner.
How much did racial oppression and other social barriers affect African-American wealth accumulation during antebellum and postbellum America? Were African Americans totally regulated to the economic dregs of society? This study uses banking records to chart and understand economic behaviors of African Americans in Baltimore before and after the Civil War. By extracting the debits and credits from the deposit ledgers of the Savings Bank of Baltimore--a white savings bank--of African Americans and triangulating these ledgers with census and land records, and newspapers more details concerning their economic lives emerge. Although many could not read and write, black savers proactively patronized this savings bank, eventually learning to use the interest and extra dividends they earned to accomplish individual and community goals, such as purchasing property and funding benevolence organizations. The Bank's method of disseminating interest and extra dividends rewarded black savers with large accounts that left their monies in the bank over long periods of time. Many black families came together, using a form of communal or collective capitalism, to make large deposits, benefiting from the policy. Although, other factors determined the success of savers utilizing this policy, such as occupation, self-discipline, and family structure, this policy allowed black people at different income levels to circumvent some of the socio-economic factors that limited wealth and security for individuals. African Americans, through their savings accounts accumulated more wealth than we associate with the antebellum and postbellum era.