Abstract: Banking and Business in the Black Community in the 1930s

Marcus Anthony Allen


In a confidential letter to the president of the Afro-American Newspapers, Carl Murphy, the director of the Citizens & Southern Bank and Trust Company (located in Philadelphia), R. R. Wright, Sr., sets forth a theme of ambivalence in black banking during the 1930s. Wright confides in Murphy, explaining some of his bank's problems: "No institution has had as hard luck as our bankshave [sic] had in collecting loans from many persons of our race, especially when these persons have no stock in it. They will brazenly borrow, but they will not pay it back." Wright was obviously frustrated with the difficulties and realities of banking regardless of one's race, during this period. However, unlike, the dark foreshadowing of black capitalism found in the analysis of others during the 1930s, Wright maintains a balanced and holistic view of his bank's circumstances: "I am sorry to remember that when we started there were 30,000 banks in existence. Today, there are about 15,000. There were also seventy-one (71) Negro banks in existence. There are now about twelve (12). I don't think that mortality was due to ignorance or venality, but it was due to the times."