People of Color Who Helped Shape the World of Credit Unions


People of Color Who Helped Shape the World of Credit Unions

Credit Unions are financial cooperatives that are owned and controlled by their members. They provide a variety of financial services, including savings accounts, checking accounts, loans and mortgages. Credit Unions are often seen as a more affordable and member-friendly alternative to banks. Credit Unions often charge lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on saving accounts. 

                People of color have played a significant role in the history of Credit Unions. In the early 20th century, many Credit Unions were founded by and for people of color. These credit unions provided financial services to people who were often excluded from traditional banks. Some of the most notable people of color who have helped shaped the world of credit unions include:


           Woman holding phoneEunice Johnson (1916-2010): Johnson was a civil rights activist and Credit Union pioneer. She founded the First Credit Union for Government Employees in 1935, which was the first Credit Union in Washinton, D.C. It became a model for other Credit Unions across the country.  She also served as a leader in the Credit Union movement as the president of the League of Federally Charted Credit Unions from 1952 to 1954. During her tenure, she helped develop policies and procedures that standardized credit union operations and expanded membership eligibility. Johnson worked tirelessly to advocated for Credit Unions and testified before Congress on multiple occasions, speaking about the benefits of Credit Unions and the need for supportive legislation. Her efforts helped to secure passage of the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934, which provided a federal charter for Credit Unions.

           George McKinney (1929-2008): McKinney’s efforts were instrumental in expanding Credit Union membership to include more Americans. Before his involvement, Credit Unions were primarily accessible to specific groups like employees of a particular company or members of a particular community. One of McKinney’s significant contributions was securing federal deposit insurance for Credit Unions. He played a key role in advocating for the passage of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIC), which was established in 1970. This legislation provided federal insurance coverage for deposits held in Credit Unions, enhancing the safety and stability of these institutions and increasing consumer confidence in them. McKinney served as a member of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) board, where he worked to develop regulations and policies that supported the growth and sustainability of credit unions. Additionally, he testified before Congress on multiple occasions, advocating for legislation that would benefit credit unions and their members.

          Madam C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919): Walker was a self-made millionaire and philanthropist; Walker was the firstOld photo of woman African American woman to become a millionaire. She used her wealth to support various causes, including the establishment of Credit Unions. In 1908, she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana, which later became the Madam C.J. Walker Credit Union. Walker recognized the importance of financial literacy and encouraged her employees and customers to manage their finances wisely. She offered financial education workshops and seminars to help people understand budgeting, saving, and investment strategies.

          Joseph Battle Jr. (1952-2023): Battle made significant contributions to the development and growth of Credit Unionman with hands on tables throughout his career. Battle served as the President of Credit Union National Association (CUNA) from 1986 to 1988. During his tenure as CUNA President, battle was instrumental in promoting the credit union movement and advocating for legislation and policies favorable to credit unions. Battle played a key role in the passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1982, which expanded membership eligibility for Credit Unions. Battle also successfully lobbied for the establishment of National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) as an independent federal agency, ensuring dedicated oversight and regulation of Credit Unions. Battle worked to establish Credit Unions in underserved communities, particularly minority and rural areas to provide access to affordable financial services for those who might not have been well-served by traditional banks.

          People of color have played a vital role in the history of Credit Unions. Their contributions have helped to make Credit Unions more accessible and affordable for people of all backgrounds. Diversity is important in the Credit Union movement because it helps ensure that Credit Unions are responsive to the needs of all of their members, promotes innovation, and builds trust between Credit Unions and their members. Without these great figures throughout history the standard for Credit Unions would not be what it is today. 

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