A big part of one’s lifestyle is banking. Everyone needs a safe place to deposit their money, make a loan or apply for a mortgage. For African Americans in Pittsburgh in 1855 even if you had money you could not open an account in some financial institutions. On Feb. 21, at the Dollar Bank Heritage Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, Dollar Bank Celebrated Black History Month. Guests enjoyed an evening of light refreshments and toured the Heritage Center where they viewed photographs and memorabilia that belonged to some of Dollar Bank’s first Black depositors. Between 1855 and the 1920s, thousands of African Americans in the Pittsburgh region opened savings accounts with Dollar Bank. They were laborers, ministers, teachers, soldiers, housewives, small business owners, and pioneering professionals. As families put down roots, their relationship with Dollar Bank sometimes spanned generations. A number of family names carried across decades of Dollar Bank’s records—Woodson, Proctor, Golden, Crunkleton, Googins, Gibson and Burley.
Just one month before he opened his savings account at Dollar Bank in April 1888, John Paul Golden, M.D., became the first African American to graduate with a medical degree from Western Pennsylvania Medical College, forerunner of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Benjamin Tucker Tanner opened his account with Dollar Bank on Thursday, December 18, 1856, just a week shy of his 21st birthday. At the time, Tanner lived with his parents at 41 Enoch Street in the Hill District, and was working his way through college as a barber in a shop on Fifth Avenue.
During a brief program, Robert Hill, retired Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Chief Communications Officer, University of Pittsburgh, shared the early story of African Americans and Dollar Bank when the wages were 90 cents a day and anyone could open an account if they had one dollar. James McQuade, Dollar Bank President and CEO, and Carol A. Neyland, Senior Vice President, Community Development, acknowledged several individuals that have been vital to the history of Dollar Bank and minorities: Pam Golden contributed the doctors bag that belonged to John Paul Golden, M.D., Mona Generett created the mortgage program for mothers in 1999 and the Urban League of Pittsburgh has recognized Dollar Bank as a Corporate Leader.
The Dollar Bank Heritage Center is free and open to the public. It can be viewed during normal banking hours.
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