October 20


October 20, 1849 William Washington Browne, educator, minister and businessman, was born enslaved in Habersham County, Georgia. At 15, Browne ran away and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he attended school in Wisconsin and then returned to the South in 1869 to teach in Georgia and Alabama. After becoming a Methodist minister in 1876, he urged the formation of groups to pool money and buy land. In 1889, he organized the True Reformers Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia, the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. At its peak in 1907, it took in more than $1 million in deposits. Browne was one of only eight men, including Booker T. Washington, selected to represent African Americans at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. Browne died December 21, 1897 and his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Richmond’s black community.


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