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Our Inspiration: The Maggie Lena Walker Story

Maggie Lena Walker, (1864 – 1934), was a black businesswoman and teacher in Richmond, VA. Born to enslaved parents, with no college education, she overcame obstacles to fulfill her dream of entrepreneurship. In 1903, she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Walker was the first woman of any race to charter a bank in the United States. She was also the first black woman to serve as president of any bank. The bank became a powerful representation of black self-help in the segregated South.

She hosted many notables such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington in her home as she was the vice president and member of the Richmond chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1923, Walker received an honorary master’s degree at Virginia Union University, a historically black university in Richmond. Maggie L. Walker left a lasting impression on the Richmond community. The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank still stands today in downtown Richmond as Premiere Bank. Walker was also honored by the community by naming a school after her. The Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies serves high school students selected for their excellence in government, international studies, science, mathematics, languages, and fine arts.

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