Wachovia admits slave trade profits
Published Jun 10, 2005 11:26 PM
After initially denying ties to slavery in
January, executives at Wachovia Bank disclosed in a June 2 report that the
bank’s predecessor institutions—the Bank of Charleston, S.C., and
the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company—“owned” at least 162
enslaved Africans and accepted 529 more as “collateral” on
The 111-page report was prepared by the History Factory, a firm
specializing in corporate archival work. It also revealed that war financier
Robert Morris—a founder of a forerunner institution, Bank of North
America—used profits from the slave trade to start Wachovia in
And the Bank of Charleston provided financial assistance to the
confederate government throughout the Civil War.
The admission by the
North-Carolina-based Wachovia, the country’s fourth-biggest bank, follows
similar disclosures by Lehman Brothers; J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., which is
parent company of Bank One; and the Savings Bank of Baltimore, which is part of
the Wachovia network.
Like Wachovia, J. P. Morgan Chase initially
disavowed ties to slavery. Eventually, Morgan executives were forced to
acknowledge that two predecessor banks accepted 13,000 enslaved Africans
“as collateral,” taking “ownership” of 1,250 when loans
There were over 4 million enslaved Africans by 1865, when
slavery was abolished upon ratification of the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution after the military defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War. The
legacy of slavery, however, continues to be felt today in rampant
Major struggles for reparations are being waged. These include
demands for federal reparations legislation. There are also lawsuits seeking
billions of dollars from such companies as R.J. Reynolds, Aetna Inc. and CSX
Corp. for the descendants of enslaved Africans.
The disclosures by these
major banking institutions were made under pressure from the cities of Chicago,
Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit and Richmond, Va. These cities passed
ordinances calling on city contractors to reveal any history of making money
Chicago’s Slave Era Disclosure Ordinance, passed in
2003, was designed to demonstrate how enslaved Africans were the life blood of
the original 13 colonies as well as the new United States after independence
Put money where your mouth is!
Wachovia is the
leading manager of the Philadelphia city government’s bank accounts.
Philadelphia’s ordinance, signed in February, asks corporations that seek
contracts with the city to disclose if they profited from
Wachovia issued an apology. Officials said the bank would offer
support for community organizations working to further awareness and education
of African American history. But Philadelphia attorney Michael Coard, leader of
the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, described Wachovia’s action as
“a publicity stunt that had nothing to do with sincere remorse but
everything to do with denying its racism of the past from slave profiteering and
of the present from discriminatory redlining.”
Coard said: “If
Wachovia is truly remorseful, it would put its money where its mouth is. Talk is
ATAC, as part of the overall reparations movement, has been
waging an increasingly successful battle to force the federal government to
commemorate the enslaved Africans who were owned by George Washington at the
first “White House,” which is at the current site of the Liberty
Bell in Philadelphia.
Like most major urban areas, communities of color in
Philadelphia have been devastated by decades of redlining. In much the same way
that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have kept developing
countries impoverished and at the mercy of the multinational banks and
corporations by only extending loans with excessively high rates of interest,
U.S. banks have withheld home loans from neighborhoods considered poor
investment risks. This has led to widespread economic decline in these areas.
Now laws prohibiting red-lining are under attack from the Bush
These banks could not have become the powerful financial
institutions they are today if it weren’t for the tremendous profits they
made off the cruel slave trade and slavery.
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