President Abraham Lincoln, one of the nation’s original visionaries, had wanted to win the Civil War but also envisioned freeing the enslaved and ensuring their economic prosperity. After he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he signed legislation creating the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Co., known as Freedman’s Savings Bank.

Lincoln considered the bank’s mission so important to the nation that its offices were located directly across from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where the president could see it and keep his eye on it. The bank’s mission was radical: Teach newly freed blacks about money.

Additionally, during the final period of the Civil War, one of Lincoln’s top generals promised all freed slaves 40 acres and a mule, an opportunity to own collateral and machinery in their own names. Lincoln supported the initiative.

Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated. His successor, President Andrew Johnson, was diametrically opposed to things like the Freedman’s Savings Bank. “As long as I am president, this nation will be white-run,” Johnson was quoted as saying. So much for Lincoln’s black empowerment ideas.

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