Abstract: Homeownership Is Colorblind: The Role of African American Savings and Loans in Home Finance, 1880-1980

David L. Mason


Since the 1840s, African American men and women have used thrifts to achieve the goals of homeownership and financial security. These businesses appealed to blacks for many reasons, including their ease of formation, their reliance on mutual cooperation among the members, and their image as "self-help" institutions. During the early twentieth century, the number of African American-owned thrifts rose significantly, playing an important role in improving the level of black homeownership. In the late 1940s, these institutions formed their own trade association to advance solutions to the problems of discrimination that blacks faced in housing markets. They promoted the formation of minority-owned thrifts and the banning of race-based criteria in loan applications by lenders. Although regulators generally supported these goals, achieving them proved to be very difficult, and it was only in the late 1960s that legislation outlawing the worst abuses was put in place.

BEH On-Line Paper