Black bank, Milwaukee

Black-Owned Bank Celebrates 100 Years In Business During Black History Month

Milwaukee's Columbia Savings and Loan Association is celebrating 100 years in business as a Black-owned bank this Black History Month.

A Black-owned bank in Milwaukee has much to celebrate during this year’s Black History Month. Columbia Savings and Loan Association has been in business for 100 years, having helped Black patrons receive the proper financial help they need for a century.

The company was founded in September 1924 by Ardie and Wilbur Halyard to aid Black residents in securing loans or opening accounts. Its legacy lives on today through its current vice president, Wesley McKenzie, whose great-grandfather was a recipient of their loans during a time when options were scarce.

“You can imagine that a Black-owned business, in the U.S. was not a welcomed thing, not alone a Black-owned bank,” shared McKenzie to WBAL. “The reason the Halyards started it was because they understood we didn’t have access to funds at regular banks and financial institutions at the time…For me, personally, to be able to work at a financial institution where my great-grandfather got a loan — at a time when he couldn’t walk into most banks and get a loan — that to me is the priceless part.”

The bank lies within a historic part of Milwaukee, where Black residents of the Wisconsin city were able to thrive and build livelihoods alongside one another in the area.

Currently, there are only 40 Black-owned banks still in operation in America, as reported by Finder. Columbia Savings and Loan Association is a long-standing establishment that has provided Black customers an avenue through which to grow and maintain their wealth.

“It’s day by day, one by one,” shared McKenzie on building trust with Black customers in the face of generational banking discrimination. “We understand we have to get the customers in here and show them the importance of financial literacy.”

With Black people still facing the issue of loan approvals and funding in regards to buying their own homes or starting businesses, celebrating institutions that paved the way for Black people to do more with financial means is crucial as the fight to end loan discrimination wages on.

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