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March 09 2015

Operation HOPE and the Afro-American Historical Society of the National Archives Join to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Freedman's Bank

Top leaders from government, community and the private sector convened to outline a vision geared towards completing the Bank's unfinished mission

HOPE CEO Bryant announces launch of year long, nationwide tour to continue the legacy of the Freedman's Bank

WASHINGTONMarch 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Operation HOPE and the Afro-American Historical Society of the National Archives hosted a commemoration on March 3rd of the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Freedman's Bank. Established by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1865, the Bank was a landmark institution designed to teach former slaves about money.

Top leaders from government, community and the private sector were convened by Operation HOPE to outline a vision geared towards completing the Bank's unfinished mission of inclusive economics. Guest speakers included U.S. Comptroller of the Currency,Thomas J. Curry; Civil Rights Icon, Ambassador Andrew Young; King Center CEO, Dr. Bernice A. King; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; National Urban League, CEO Marc Morial; OneWest Bank CEO, Joseph P. Otting; and Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO, John Hope Bryant.

Comptroller Curry stated, "Freedman's was all about saving and, at least implicitly, about financial literacy. Those are values that are very important to the OCC, and they're values that have been particularly prominent in the work of John Bryant and Operation HOPE. In fact, John has said that financial literacy is the new global civil rights issue of and for this generation." (Full remarks here)

Later in the day, NewsOne Now Host Roland Martin moderated a lively and spirited discussion that examined divergent methods around empowering low-wealth and struggling middle-class communities, while specifically tackling the economic challenges facing African Americans. Panelists included Ambassador Young, Dr. Bernice King, Chairman Bryant, Deputy Comptroller of the Currency Barry Wides and Essence Magazine contributor Donna Owens.  View the entire event here.

Drawing from the significance of the anniversary, Ambassador Andrew Young said, "We need to wrap ourselves around all of the new vision of Civil Rights that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about. The Bank (Freedman's) and its unfinished work still resonates in issues of poverty, income inequality and race relations today."

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee added, "We must embrace our young people and get them to understand that their equality rights are wrapped around their pocketbook rights. Thank you John for the work that you do, count me in as a solider on the battlefield for ensuring that we are lifting ourselves up."

Bryant also announced an ambitious year-long, nationwide tour around the Freedman's Bank that would be grounded in Operation HOPE's foundational initiative, Project 5117.

"We should give this day it's appropriate place in our history. Operation HOPE believes that by delivering the 'memo' of inclusive economics to communities that have been overlooked and under-resourced, we can begin to bridge the work started by Lincoln, revisited by Dr. King and continue the legacy of the Freedman's Bank," said Bryant.

During the Symposium, National Archives Reference Archivist Damani Davis, shared the importance of the Afro-American Historical Society of the National Archives and the work they do to preserve the memory of the African-American experience.  

Records created by post-Civil War Federal agencies in the holdings of the National Archives are some of the most important records available for the study of African-American genealogy. During its existence the Bank had over $57 million in deposits and 70,000 depositors. The Bank's records remain the single largest repository of lineage-linked African-American genealogy, containing upwards of 480,000 names.

About Operation HOPE  
Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been providing financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.2 million individuals worldwide. Through its work, HOPE turns check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. For additional information about Operation HOPE, go to

About the Afro-American History Society (AAHS) of the National Archives 
An organization of current and former employees of the National Archives, AAHS was founded with the purpose of aiding research in black history through the promotion, study, dissemination, and collection of information and materials relating to the history and culture of African Americans.

About the National Archives 
The National Archives holds millions of records that document the African American experience, including the records of the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, popularly known as the Freedmen's Bureau.  These records are the most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras.  See images from these records. For more on African American records at the National Archives, see