Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Saga of Jesse Binga

The cinematic arc of Jesse Binga’s life story – his humble arrival in Chicago with $10 in his pocket, the genius and hard work that took him to the pinnacle of business and social success, and his courage in challenging and overcoming racially-motivated attacks, followed by a stunning bankruptcy, imprisonment, and a pitiful, penniless death – mirror in exaggerated terms the failed hopes of black Chicagoans in the first half of the 20th century. Most of the events in Binga’s life took place here at his home, 5922 South Parkway Blvd. (now 5922 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.)

Jesse Binga was born at Detroit in 1865, one of ten children. His father was a barber, but his mother, Adelphia Powers Binga, was a serial entrepreneur, and became her son’s inspiration throughout his life. As a housing developer, she built “Binga row” houses in the city’s slums. She also operated a food shipment business – the first Great Lakes-caught whitefish ever tasted south of the Mason-Dixon line were transported there by the Bingas.

With ten children in the home, the family was never wealthy. Jesse Binga dropped out of high school and apprenticed to his father as a barber and also worked briefly for a Detroit attorney before setting out to seek his fortune. He worked off and on in barbershops throughout the Midwest, then headed to California, where he found employment as a Pullman porter. In 1893, Binga came to Chicago to attend the World’s Fair that took place that year, arriving with no more than $10 to his name. Remaining in the city after the Fair, Binga spent a few years working at odd jobs before starting a real estate business on south State St., near 33rd street in about 1896.

With his mother’s experience in real estate as an inspiration, Binga threw himself into the business, saying:
Well, I'm going to give it a fair test, and if integrity counts for anything, I'll win. I felt that only prejudice could beat me and I determined that if it did beat me I would go to South America and start life in one of those republics where a man's color is not his crime.
Jesse Binga’s audacious success and rapid climb into the highest echelons of Chicago society meant that he never saw the Andes mountains.

(Pictured: Jesse Binga)

At the turn of the century, only around 20,000 African-Americans called Chicago home, less than 2% of the city’s population. Most of these were concentrated in the so-called “Black Belt” district, which stretched a few blocks on either side of State street south from 22nd street down to 35th street. Chicago was not unusual in its racial homogeneity at the time; most African-Americans in the U.S. lived in southern states, several of which in fact had majority or near-majority black populations. Starting in the 1880s, and especially in the first decades of the 20th century, Jim Crow segregation in much of the South, plus racial persecution by the Ku Klux Klan and other white groups and poor agricultural employment opportunities sent millions of southern Blacks into northern cities, including Chicago. The widespread circulation of the Chicago Defender, the city’s chief African-American newspaper, made Chicago a particular magnet for those seeking jobs and inexpensive housing.

It was these new migrants who made up the core of Jesse Binga’s clientele. When he opened his real estate business in 1896, he paid $10 per month in office rent and bought a battered old desk for $1.50. He ordered 1,000 cards from a printer, but finding himself unable to pay the bill, convinced the printer to let him have 25 proofs as “samples,” which he used until he was able to pay in full. His first profitable project was renting an apartment in the same building where he had his office, then fixing it up and subletting it at a premium.

As black migrants flooded into Chicago, the borders of the Black Belt expanded into historically-white neighborhoods. White residents in these districts were eager to leave as blacks moved in, and Jesse Binga was the city’s major broker between white sellers and black buyers. Binga would buy or rent property from departing white residents, then fix up or subdivide these buildings into smaller apartments demanded by poor southern blacks arriving in the city. In this way, he was able to demand upwards of 50% premia over the purchase price of many properties. Binga placed the advertisement below in the Tribune in 1905:

By the middle of the 1900s decade, Binga was the city’s top black real estate broker, a position he continued to hold for the next twenty years. Explaining his rapid success to a reporter in later years, he emphasized his expertise in construction, and underestimation of his intelligence by business partners, as the twin bases for his success in real estate:
I could do the repair work myself. I could do everything from digging a posthole to topping a chimney. I knew. Many a night I've worked all night on boilers and plumbing, and wiping joints, and mending stairs, and hanging paper. I knew materials and I knew when work was right…

My greatest asset in business -- I won't say that it was altogether my integrity. It was partly the disposition of the average white man to underestimate my knowledge of real estate values. They wouldn't believe that a colored man could take almost any old building and whip it into shape.
Due to discrimination, as well as other factors, many blacks in Chicago faced difficulties in gaining access to adequate credit to finance houses and other large purchases. As with real estate, Jesse Binga realized he could turn racism into profit. Opening his own bank, he would serve customers other banks would not – and this lack of competition meant big revenues. When the white-owned McCarthy Bank at 35th and State failed in 1907, Binga purchased the building and chartered his Binga Bank, a private credit institution.

The bank was an immediate success, and such was Binga’s growing stature in the community that he decided to dabble in politics, running for County Commissioner in 1910. That run failed, and Binga largely turned away from politics for the rest of his life, finding business a much more profitable pursuit. Later, he would explain his disdain for political life: "the double crossing, the knife in the back one day and the handshake the next -- I never took to that. I vote but I don't know today what ward I live in."

(Pictured: political advertisement which appeared in the Chicago Defender in 1910)

In 1911, the Defender, referring to Binga as “Our Only Banker,” sang his encomium:
He was the pioneer in securing good houses and flats for the race and the beginning of his remarkable business along that line has been one of the main factors in the wonderful growth of the citizens of color in Chicago.
The next year, Binga married into the city’s wealthiest and most prominent African-American family, the Johnsons. His bride, Eudora Johnson, was a daughter of famed gambling king John “Mushmouth” Johnson, owner of the massive Emporium Saloon on "Satan’s Mile" (S. State St.) and the upscale Frontenac Club on W. 22nd (some sources claim Eudora was a sister, not a daughter of Mushmouth; as I’ve noted before, the relationships between various Johnson family members were complicated). Supposedly, Eudora inherited over $200,000 from her father, which added to the Binga Bank’s capitalization, making it not only the biggest bank in the Black Belt, but a serious competitor for the business of white depositors as well.

Some have even suggested that Binga married Eudora Johnson exclusively for her money (she was apparently not exactly the picture of pulchritude); more than likely, though, such rumors originated out of jealousy from rival businessmen and renters who resented their landlord. In any case, the Binga-Johnson wedding was the city’s most lavish that year, and, befitting Binga’s growing national stature, even Booker T. Washington sent a letter of congratulations to the newlyweds.

During the next fifteen years, Chicago’s black population, which had already been growing by leaps and bounds, quadrupled in size. Jesse Binga was one of the chief beneficiaries; both his real estate and banking businesses prospered tremendously. Between 1921 and 1924 alone, the bank’s deposits grew from $300,000 to over $1,100,000, and then to nearly $1,500,000 by 1929, a period when real estate values were stagnant and bank failures were not uncommon (through suspensions and closures, the number of banks in Illinois fell from 1,969 in 1920 to 1,806 in 1929).

Binga was Chicago’s leading black citizen, and among its leading citizens of any color. During this period, he opened a “business school” of sorts, the Associated Business Club, wherein black entrepreneurs heard lectures from the city’s top business owners, black and white. He also purchased the home pictured above, at 5922 South Parkway Blvd., in 1917, for the sum of $30,000 (the equivalent of around $500,000 today). The home, located in what was a strictly white neighborhood, overlooks Washington Park, a beautiful and grand park covering more than 70 city blocks.

Jesse Binga’s prominence as a black Chicagoan of means, his activities in “block-busting” – drawing black residents into previously white neighborhoods, and his own purchase of a large home in a white district, made him a target for animosity among whites. Starting during the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, his home on South Park Blvd. was bombed seven times over the next two years. His businesses also suffered repeated bombings. Each time dynamite exploded on his front porch, there would be offers to buy his home, but Binga refused, rebuilt, and remained on South Park Blvd. He placed a private security officer on 24-hour guard for months at a time, and even publicly offered a $1,000 reward for the conviction of the bombers, but none were ever caught. He told the Defender (partially in response to criticism from blacks that he had moved out of the Black Belt),
I am an American citizen, a Christian and a property owner. No man can make of me a traitor or a coward. No power on earth can change my faith in God. I will defend my home and personal liberty to the extent of my life….I have just as much right to enjoy my home at Washington Park as any one else to go there and play tennis or baseball or enjoy other advantages of the district. It is a personal privilege. I went there to live because I liked the house and I had a chance to buy it....I do not want to get away from anybody, but absolutely refuse to live in a neighborhood inhabited by the lower class of white trash.
Despite his dislike of politics, Binga consistently went on the record in favor of greater state regulation of private, unincorporated banks like his own. At first blush, it may seem unusual for a businessman to favor greater regulation of his own industry, since the costs of complying with regulations can be high. However, regulatory costs are largely fixed costs – that is, independent of the size of the business – which means only the largest and best-capitalized firms will be able to remain in business. In banking, for instance, most regulations require higher levels of capitalization and more layers of accounting. By 1920, the chief threat to the Binga Bank’s profitability wasn’t greater regulation; it was competing black bankers. State regulation was a way to cripple the competition, and in that year, Binga, along with other major Chicago bankers, succeeded in eliminating private banks. After 1920, all banks had to have state or federal charters, and no less than $100,000 in capital. The Binga Bank – renamed Binga State Bank – was the only Black Belt bank able to meet such requirements.

Binga also associated his bank with the Chicago Clearing House, an association of local banks that could – but were not obligated to – supply cash on demand to a member bank if that bank suffered a run on its deposits. In those days before federal deposit insurance (FDIC), although banks were generally more conservative as investors, they were at greater risk of devastating bank runs (see the more extensive discussion of banking before FDIC in this post), so Clearing House membership added a degree of assurance to depositors. And because a potential run could become quite expensive, only the city’s top banks were allowed to become Clearing House members.

In 1926, Binga purchased property at the center of the Black Belt, on the northwest corner of 35th and State, on which he built a new $120,000 structure to house the Binga State Bank. It was the most expensive single building in the district. Constructed of marble and bronze, the exterior reflected a rich Ionic architecture, and the interior featured walnut paneling and a massive steel vault. 50 bank employees, all African Americans, were skimmed from the top of the community’s talent pool, and featured college degrees from the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and Oberlin College, among other institutions. Behind a massive glass and marble desk overlooking them all was Jesse Binga, the high-school drop-out and former barber and Pullman porter.

(Pictured: The Binga State Bank building at 35th and State streets)

In 1927, Binga purchased more property at 35th and State, and built an even grander structure, the Binga Arcade, a $500,000 5-story modern office building, which would house all of the Binga empire, as well as offices for other black-owned businesses. There was no building anything like it south of Van Buren St. in the Loop.

During this period, income among African Americans in Chicago was growing substantially, and Jesse Binga was a leading symbol of the community’s hopes. His success made him a celebrity. He wrote weekly columns on business and real estate for the Defender, and published a book entitled “Certain Saying of Jesse Binga,” which included such pearls of wisdom as
Nothing is so easy or so wasteful as the work of hating -- except hating work.

You can be a menial or a man of business. But to get out of the menial place requires the thrift that produces property. And property enlarges life. Work, then, not for gain alone but for the enlarged life that honest gains create.

Life is pretty much what you make it -- and making it big means using every day of it.
In 1929, at the height of his success, 64-year old Jesse Binga began soliciting funds for a second bank, this one with a federal, instead of a state, charter. It was to be his crowning achievement, his lasting legacy to Chicago before retirement. Binga purchased property on South Parkway Blvd., near 46th Pl., for the new bank building, and sold shares in the business to investors. He had little trouble finding eager subscribers to the new bank. What could go wrong, after all? There was no better bet in Chicago than Jesse Binga.

Unfortunately, no one, least of all Binga himself, foresaw the end of the prosperity of the 1920s. In late October, 1929, the great stock market crash eliminated millions of dollars of industrial value. At around the same time, Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, which limited imports and exports, destroying well-established businesses and isolating the U.S. from the world economy. Failing businesses had difficulty servicing their loans, and so undercapitalized banks began to fail throughout the country. At the same time, many depositors, fearing the insolvency of banks and needing additional cash to cover income lost in the broadening downturn, removed money from banks. Banks were caught in a vice.

In 1928, 18 Illinois banks had their operations suspended by the state; 1929 saw that number rise to 30, but these were not especially high numbers relative to the previous years of the 1920s. The middle of 1930, however, saw Chicago’s banking industry begin to crater, and the Binga State Bank was the “canary in the coal mine.” By July, the bank was facing serious shortages of capital and had suspended lending. Binga lent much of his own personal fortune in an attempt to keep the bank afloat, but to no avail. On July 31, 1930, Illinois bank auditors closed the Binga State Bank, alleging insolvency and accounting improprieties. As the shock of the event rippled through the city, thousands of worried depositors congregated at 35th and State, and two policemen had to maintain 24-hour watch to protect the building. A pall hung over the crowd, many of whose members had entrusted their life’s savings in the bank. Worse still was the crushed pride of seeing the African-American community’s leading citizen forced out of his commanding business position.

(Pictured: depositors milling around outside Binga State Bank on July 31, 1930)

Behind the scenes, auditors were also preparing a criminal case against Jesse Binga. In their audit of Binga State Bank, the funds that had been subscribed for the new national bank, announced in 1929, were found missing. Authorities gave the bank’s board of directors a few days to raise $400,000 needed to make the bank solvent, and the directors were amenable to the request – but only if the tarnished president, Jesse Binga, stepped down. Binga refused to do so, clinging to the bank he had built up from a single $10 bill, the bank he had poured his entire life savings into in an attempt to forestall its failure.

Next, the Chicago Clearing House, of which Binga State Bank was a member, met to decide whether to supply it with sufficient funds to re-open. Likely other banks in the association were suffering under similar distress, and so the Clearing House members were not keen on taking the risk to prop up Binga State Bank, especially if the rumors of embezzlement by Binga were true. Perhaps, too, racism played a role. Later, one member would describe a conclave of Clearing House members in which the meeting chairman said that Binga State Bank was “a little n----- bank that does not mean anything.” It was the first closure of a Clearing House member bank in twenty years.

In any case, by October, 1930, Binga State Bank had failed, and thousands of depositors’ savings were completely gone. December saw Binga forced into personal bankruptcy and hounded by creditors. Even his wife, Eudora, turned against him, filing suit in court, charging him with incompetency in managing the family’s financial affairs and asking that the court appoint a conservator to handle what little money was left.

The failure of the Binga Bank kicked off a massive string of bank failures in Chicago. From 30 Illinois bank suspensions in 1929, 1930 saw an uptick to 125. Another 238 banks suspended operations in 1931, then 209 more in 1932 and an additional 245 in 1933. The number of banks in the state fell by more than half in four years. If the state regulations of 1920 that shut down the private banking business were intended to protect depositors, they failed miserably. If Chicago Clearing House members thought allowing Binga State Bank to fail would not lead to further runs on banks in the city, they were completely wrong.

In April, 1931, a court handed down an indictment against Jesse Binga for embezzling $39,000 in pledges for the proposed national bank on South Park and 46th, which had never opened. Over 80 witnesses testified at trial against Binga, but Binga’s attorneys argued that a state law precluded capital funds for a national bank from being held in a state bank – thus explaining why Binga had held these funds in his own personal account, but not explaining where the funds had gone. The jury was hung, and the judge decreed a mistrial.

The state’s attorney immediately began preparing a second trial, which, after a long series of continuances, began in May, 1933. Two months before, in March, Eudora Binga died, likely from stress due to the stress of financial dissolution and personal antagonism with her husband.

At the second trial, the state added to its list of witness the #2 officer at the Binga State Bank, Mrs. Inez Cantey. When asked about the events precipitating the closure of the bank and the misappropriation of funds, she repeatedly admitted wrongdoing – “with the permission of Mr. Binga”.

With his chief lieutenant turned against him, Jesse Binga likely knew he was headed for a conviction. He took the stand in his defense, breaking down in tears as he exclaimed,
They're persecuting me. They have killed my wife and now they're trying to kill me. I've lost all I owned; now they're persecuting me. Stop this thing or I'll go mad!"
A few days later, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. In November, 1933, Binga was sentenced to serve 1 – 10 years in state prison. He managed to remain free while awaiting an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, but when that court denied the appeal, a 70-year old Jesse Binga entered Joliet prison in April, 1935. He was immediately transferred to the hospital ward for treatment of a heart condition, and most observers fully expected him to die in prison.

11 months later, at his first parole hearing, Chicago’s – and the nation’s – most famous attorney, Clarence Darrow, appeared on behalf of Jesse Binga. "I have known Binga for thirty years and he is a man of fine character. He lost a fortune trying to keep his bank open."

The appeal was denied, but his next parole hearing in February, 1938 was a success. At that hearing, prison officers were presented with a list of 10,000 signatures from Chicago residents, requesting the release of Binga. Many of the signatories were among those who lost money in the failed Binga State Bank.

After being released from prison, Binga moved back into his home on South Parkway Blvd. Completely broke and in poor health, he nevertheless managed to keep creditors from taking his home by working as a janitor at his church, St. Anselm’s on S. Michigan Ave., near 60th St.

In April, 1941, Jesse Binga received some belated relief in the form of a pardon from Illinois Governor Dwight Green. But it was too little to salvage much of his tarnished reputation. Soon after, Binga finally sold his home and moved in with a nephew, Albert Roberts (the Bingas had no children). Jesse Binga died in 1950.

The Binga State Bank, formerly the emerald of the Black Belt, remained closed until 1943, when it was reopened as the Phoenix National Bank under new ownership. Together with the Binga Arcade, the bank building was demolished in the 1970s, replaced by an Illinois Institute of Technology building.

Binga’s home on South Parkway Blvd., however, still stands (though apparently renovated extensively), though the street was renamed Martin Luther King Dr. in the late 1960s. In fact, it is even for sale. The formerly all-white neighborhood where Jesse Binga courageously stood against dynamite attacks in 1919-1921 is now almost entirely populated by black residents.

[Update: See the interesting additional information below in the comments from a Binga nephew]


C. Rae White said...

Wonderful work! Jesse Binga was my great, great uncle on my mother's side of the family. The name Binga is pronounced the way you see it, Binga. The article where the BIN-gay pronuciation comes from was incorrect. The reporter corrects his mistake in a subsequent article about Binga.

William and Adelphia Binga's social status was considered, petit-bourgeois/lower middle class. This is a great accomplishment for someone who had escaped slavery in 1836 and was a fugitive slave for about 30 years of his life, living in Detroit from about 1843.

Upon leaving high school, Jesse Binga studied law for two years with attorney Thomas R. Crisup (a black University of Michigan Law School Graduate) and began his real estate interests with a second tenament Adelphia gifted him, hoping it would keep him in Detroit.

Jesse Binga not only worked as an itinerate barber while traveling the northwestern territory; he also established a tent barbershop on the shore of Seattle, WA for about a year (shortly after a devastating business district fire). He later established a barbershop in Tacoma, WA, also a short lived venture.

Binga's first real estate office was in a converted apartment building in Southside Chicago's black ghetto. His first real estate deal was a long term lease on the Bates Apartments, a newly constructed seven story white's only apartment building at 3637 South State St. He relocated his real estate headquarters to the Bates Apartments, and later installed his private Binga Bank on the ground floor at the same location.

I just wanted the give a bit more insight into your wonderful article/post. Great work and thanks for your interest in Jesse Binga. He was a great black mogul, a race leader and a race hero who has been lost in our black history.

PS: Great photos and other visuals!

Kendall said...

Glad you liked the post, and thanks for the corrections and extra information.

One thing I don't fully understand is Binga's pardon by the governor. Did new evidence emerge that he was innocent? Was he just a good friend of the governor?

At that point, he was no longer a powerful citizen or much of a community representative, so there's no obvious political reason why the governor would pardon him.

If you know anything more about that, I'd be very interested in hear.

C. Rae White said...

I'm still doing research on that part of his story. I've read so many different versions, it's somewhat confusing. I'm hoping to get the actual pardon documentation to determine the reasoning. It's clear that he made mistakes and toward the end operated in a clearly unsafe manner.

I don't believe he made a practice of fraudulently appropriating the money of his depositors for his personal benefit. Binga loved his people way too much, he was raised with strict victorian values and fiercely fought to see the upward mobilization of those who entrusted their savings and took out loans from his bank. The Carl Othaus article on Binga gives a pretty clear perspective on the situation.

I don't know if he had any political connections on that level, I'm thinking that Clarence Darrow may have given Binga the "Hook Up". In the end, just maybe "the powers that be" realized that Binga largely had a bad reaction to a devastating situation and had suffered enough.

I've read that FDR pardoned him and that Eisenhower pardoned him. I'm going to get to the bottom of it with time and a lot of study.

Kendall said...

That's fascinating. If you write a book or article based on your research, be sure to let me know.

C. Rae White said...

I'm working on it and I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks again for your interest and wonderful article on my very special ancestor.

Mecca El said...

Peace, i have been doing some research on Mr. Jesse Binga and he is truly inspiration to all, but there is always a vital key left out about the brother he followed the Prophet Noble Drew Ali. I've seen photos and he also attended the first annual Convention of the Moorish Science Temple of America along with various others such as Fard Muhammad, Oscar Dupreist, etc.The Prophet himself was and is the LAW man and was very influential during that time period and still is to this day. Research the Prophet and trace urself back and thus u will know, we are not Negros, black folks, colored people, or African Americans these names were/is given to slaves by salve holders, we are Moorish Americans a mighty race of people. Trying to connect the dots, The Binga State bank should still be in operation

Nighttripper said...

I have read your article with great interest. I notice you state he had no children. This I find differs from my research. I believe he was married in 1885 to Frances Jane Scott of Canada, in Detroit.He had a son Bethune D Binga who was my grandfather.

Anonymous said...


Kendall said...

Thanks to several commenters for the additional information.

I would be a little surprised to learn that Jesse Binga became seriously interested in Moorish Science or other forms of Islam, since throughout his life, he was a committed Christian and a parishioner at his church.

Nevertheless, given his position in the community, it wouldn't surprise me if he had some interest in what was then a rapidly-growing religious movement in the Midwest. I would be very interested in seeing any photos or other documents anyone has seen connecting Jesse Binga with Moorish Science.

Also, I haven't before seen anything about theprevious marriage in Detroit mentioned by another commenter. Do you have any further information about Ms. Scott or why she and Binga separated?

Mae said...

My great-uncle, Edwin A. Harleston, painted a portrait of Jesse Binga in 1924. His family does not know what happened to that painting. Does anyone have any idea what might have happened to it? I am writing a book about my great-uncle and want to include a picture of that painting. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Styln -- Certainly Ike could not have pardoned Jesse as he died in 1950 - 3 years before Eisenhower was President.

C. Rae White said...

You're correct. I know that Governor Green pardoned Jesse Binga. I just had to confirm it. I found proof in the Broad Ax Newspaper. As I'm sure you know, there is a lot of erroneous information on the Internet and there is an extraordinary amount of bad/wrong information about Jesse Binga in print and on the Internet.

evunleigh said...

I've read that Mr. Binga had a major conflict with his African
American banking competitor, Mr. Anthony Overton. Mr. Binga's and Overton's parallel lives, one beginning his journey in Michigan, even finding himself out here in Oakland, Ca., the other in Louisiana, both winding up in Chicago and becoming giant competitors in real estate and baking, would make for a great movie! Anyone know how to get in touch with Denzel and Samuel J.?

Unknown said...

A book maybe more suitable, a movie would probaby leave out to much. I've just become aware of Binga since I started attending Neiu-CCICS, and it's very interesting that stories like his and many others aren't mentioned throughout schools here in Chicago. It's a DAM TRAVESTY! And throughout the perils of time the stories become twisted up and sometimes confusing. Work must be done to promote Binga's TRUE story and that of many others that helped this area to become a respectable area at a particular time. Can it be re-lived, maybe or maybe not. However, lets be sure to make it highly known that Black folk were putting in work, and had most of what they needed at their beck and call WITHIN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY! I would strongly like to believe that knowing it wasn't petfect, it was albeit a better way of living.

JB said...

Excellent post. Did you get your Binga quotes from the Defender, or some other source?

Binga's life, especially what he did from the time he left Detroit to 1893, when he came to Chicago, intrigues me greatly. I think there is quite a story to be told about the African American experience during the waning days of the American frontier, considering his life as a barber, a porter, and a burgeoning real estate tycoon in Idaho.

I wonder if any other fans of Binga have looked deeply into the rivalry with Anthony Overton? I think it is significant that it would be mentioned in Overton's obit in the Journal of Negro History in July 1947.

Anyways, great article.

Anonymous said...

My question relates to Jesse Binga's relationship with Besse Coleman, I have read that after she returned from France the second time, he helped finance her flying. I've also read that Besse had intimate relations with various gentlemen sponsors and that his wife Eudora was very jealous of Bessie. Any comments.

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Unknown said...

This story brought me to tears. This should at least be a documentary like on PBS or through the new Smithsonian Museum. I'm compiling a list and gonna send to Ava D or Henry Lewis Gats. This is like the 10th story I've found that I didn't know about that shows how much black people achieved after slavery but how desire for integration, to compete on a national scale with whites and majority power fear of them becoming to equal continued to knock them back down over and over again.
I've been working on building a wealth creation and management firm to encompass everything from insurance to investing to preservation of wealth generationally thinking if only someone being me who really cares about our people and wants to do right by us could help educate us, but I'm learning it's about more than that. The barriers are so vast with any business but especially when dealing with money and the psychology based on history of bankruptcy, oppression, intentional sabotage and just the lack of education when it comes to how the economic drivers work. Although I'm sure he was human and made mistakes, just in reading the short stories I found today, I would say that if the money was missing he probably loaned it out to keep the bank afloat. 10,0000 signatures from community even those who lost money. Or maybe it was used to make payroll instead to keep the money in the bank for example. You know the white banks and business owners have been corrupt for 100s of years but they have had longer to learn how to get away with it and have the system on their side. It fascinates me to understand how he "learned" to run a bank, manage people, navigate the accounting and tax systems that were required with what little education he had. I want a mentor like him. Unfortunately often times these black business men and politicians when asking other "white" businessmen for advice or instruction, you can just imagine the "false" things they were intentionally taught. Many times as African Americans we had to have a "hustle" mentality due to limited education or constant knock downs but most were all about the good of the Community or for family.

Unknown said...

I would be interested to know if the bank that took over the location Phoenix National Bank as someone above mentioned, if it was white owned or not. Also I don't know how everyone gets these stories and comments show up right after and I'm just finding them years later. Maybe I'm not subscribed to the right blogs or something. Would love to know if any updates were discovered. Maybe the great grand daughter or great grand nephews etc can do a DNA test now. However, I'd hate to see the failed marriage and alternate relationships dominate this story, that's what happens with propaganda.

Angie Jones said...

This is an excellent article with great information and comments! Thank you Kendall for preserving Chicago Black History!!

Caillo Lisa said...

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