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August 16, 2017

Virginia's Last Black-Owned Bank Is Gone After Nearly 100 Years in Business -- What Happened?

Founding members of Black-owned bank, First State Bank in Virginia
Founding directors of First State Bank in Danville, Virginia
Photo credit: Virginia Center for Digital History
First State Bank was formed by a group of African-Americans in rural Virginia in 1919. Almost hundred years later, First State Bank is the last Black-owned bank in Virginia to disappear. What happened? And, what has happened to all of the Black-owned banks across the nation?

A story of survival

First State Bank had survived both the Great Depression and the Civil Rights era. The bank fought for civil rights, even paying bail for protesters who were arrested and building a park for black residents when Virginia denied them from using the Staunton River State Park. Black-owned banks like First State Bank also helped local farmers, and enabled the Black community to buy homes and even go to college.

So what happened?

Apparently, Black-owned banks which often have 5 or less branches -- and sometimes just one branch -- after having trouble competing with the bigger banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and others.

The dwindling number of Black-owned banks has spurred action from people like Dr. Melina Abdullah, a California State University professor and one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Rapper Killer Mike who started a drive last year to get 1 million people to each deposit $100 at black-owned banks. The message was clear; Black-owned banks need more support.

But their efforts have simply not been enough!

The numbers continue to dwindle

In 1986, there were 44 Black-owned banks in the United States. But now, according to USA Today, only 23 remain and the state of Virginia now has no Black-owned banks at all.

First State Bank was recently taken over by Casey Crawford, a former Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end. Crawford has renamed the bank to Movement Bank, and will be the bank's president and CEO.

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