African Americans in the financial services industry

African Americans have long been an integral part of the financial services and banking industry. In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to highlight a few of those money milestones. Take a look at this timeline of African American accomplishments:

1778 Richard Allen and Absalom Jones established the Free African Slave Society, an organization to help educate newly freed people on socioeconomic issues.

1879 Blanche Kelso Bruce is the first African American (and former slave) to preside over the US Senate. He was also the first African American whose signature appeared on currency as Register of the Treasury in 1881.

1888 Capital Savings Bank is the first bank founded and operated by African Americans.

1902 Maggie Lena Walker becomes the first female African American bank president after she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank.


1910 Madam C.J. Walker became the first female African American millionaire after building a brand of African American hair care products. She was the wealthiest African American women in the nation.


1927 Major R.R. Wright formed the Negro Bankers Association, the first professional organization of African Americans in finance. In 1948, the organization changed its name to the National Bankers Association and still exists today.

1970 Joseph L. Searles III is the first African American member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

1977 Azie Taylor Morton becomes the 36th treasurer of the United States and the first African American women to have her signature on US currency.

1989 The Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act mandates that the FDIC will help preserve and promote minority-owned institutions.

1987 TLC Beatrice International, a food, beverage, and grocery story conglomerate owned by Reginald F. Lewis, became the first black-owned company to have more than $1 billion in sales.

1993 Harry Alford and Kay Debow founded the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

1993 Ron Brown became the first African American Secretary of Commerce.

2001 Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), is the first African American Billionaire.

2001 Sheila Johnson is verified as the nation's first African American female billionaire.

2009 Barack H. Obama becomes the first African American President of the United States. His wife, Michelle, is the nation’s first African American First Lady.

2018 23-year-old Lauren Simmons is the New York Stock Exchange’s youngest and only female equity trader.