African-American History Month – Maggie L. Walker


Maggie L. Walker – a mother, a leader, a civil rights activist, an entrepreneur, a Richmonder.
Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1864.  Throughout her life, she was devoted to abolishing racism, sexism, and economic oppression.  She raised her two sons, Russell and Melvin, in Jackson Ward with her husband.  Her house still stands in Jackson Ward today, which was the most upper class neighborhood in Jim Crow Richmond.

After the Civil War ended, 4 million enslaved African-Americans were emancipated and were finally able to experience the liberties they long deserved.  However, Jim Crow policies stunted the progress that African-Americans were making.  Walker pushed for racial and gender equality, education reform, job creation, and business ownership for African-Americans throughout the country.  She joined the Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Federation of Women’s Clubs, National Association of Colored Women, and the National Association of Wage Earners.  Walker’s work with these groups and organizations furthered her power to promote her social activism.

Printed handbill encouraging new adult membership to the St. Luke jurisdiction

When Maggie Walker joined the local Richmond branch of the IOSL she helped eradicate its financial problems, which resulted in her position as the Right Worthy Grand Secretary Treasurer of the IOSL in 1899.  Since obtaining this position, Walker focused on using economic empowerment to defy Jim Crow Laws.  She did this by establishing a bank, newspaper, and store.  Walker was the first African-American woman to found a bank and serve as its president.  Maggie Walker’s leadership, entrepreneurship, and magnanimous personality significantly helped African-Americans across the country gain equality and empowerment.











Staff of General Office of the R. W. G. Council Order of St. Luke (1915)

To learn more about Maggie L. Walker and/or visit the National Historic Site visit this website.