Wachovia, which last month apologized for slave ownership by two predecessor banks, said recently it will contribute more than $10 million over five years to community partnerships aimed at benefiting Black Americans.
The Charlotte-based bank says its partnerships will focus on preserving and promoting Black history and culture and improving economic and educational opportunities for Blacks.
Wachovia will donate money and technical assistance and encourage employee volunteerism at The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, the National Humanities Center, the United Negro College Fund, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, the NAACP and the National Urban League.
“Our partnerships reflect feedback and ideas we received from employees, customers and community organizations, including many leaders in the African-American community,” says Wachovia chairman and chief executive officer Ken Thompson.
On June 1, the nation’s fourth-largest bank said two predecessor banks — the Bank of Charleston (S.C.) and the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company — owned slaves before the Civil War.
Amid a number of local and legislative initiatives aimed at requiring banks and other companies to investigate their pasts with regard to slavery, Wachovia contracted with a historical research firm to investigate the predecessor institutions that over the years have become part of what is now called Wachovia.
It found that the Georgia bank owned at least 162 slaves and the Bank of Charleston accepted at least 529 slaves as collateral on mortgaged properties or loans. Black interest groups have lobbied for major banks whose predecessors profited from the slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to take concrete steps to ease the economic and educational disparities that plague Black Americans in the 21st century.
Thompson said the newly announced partnerships will aim to accomplish just that.
“We’re pleased to partner with these highly regarded organizations to make a meaningful difference for African-Americans,” he says.
— Associated Press
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