News Release 2021-28 | March 3, 2021
Acting Comptroller Marks Anniversary of Freedman’s Bank and the National Currency Act
WASHINGTON—Today, Acting Comptroller of the Currency Blake Paulson issued the following statement to staff to recognize the 158th anniversary of the National Currency Act, which created the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the 156th anniversary of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company.
Over the last week we’ve seen two important anniversaries that share a tremendous heritage in promoting financial inclusion and providing fair access to financial services.
February 25 marked the 158th anniversary of the National Currency Act, which allowed for the creation of the national banking system and the establishment of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Engrained in our tenets, as we ensure financial institutions operate in a safe and sound manner, is to make sure national banks and federal savings associations also provide fair access to financial services and to treat customers fairly.
Two years and a few days after the adoption of the National Currency Act, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln established Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company—commonly referred to as Freedman’s Bank—to help newly freed slaves create and navigate their financial lives. On March 3, we recognize the 156th anniversary of the bank.
While the OCC did not supervise the bank, the agency was critical to its legacy. After its closure in June 1874, Comptrollers fought for decades to return losses to the more than 61,000 depositors who lost nearly $3 million.
Today, both the legacy of Freedman’s Bank and the National Currency Act can be found across the financial industry.
The OCC’s work in ensuring financial inclusion can be found through initiatives like Project REACh and our Minority Depository Institution Advisory Committee to advise the agency on issues and opportunities facing minority depository institutions.
Minority-owned banks play critical roles in their communities but have faced challenges with accessing capital, growing technology, and modernizing infrastructure. Project REACh recognizes opportunities for more meaningful partnerships that deliver more than temporary financial assistance that help minority-owned banks remain a vibrant part of the economic landscape. Last year, the OCC released the Project REACh Pledge for larger banks to commit to support the health and vitality of these institutions.
Within our own walls, we strive to support inclusion and diversity in a variety of ways including our eight Employee Network Groups, paid internships for minority college students, and through the High School Scholars Internship Program.
As we recognize these anniversaries, I want to thank all of you for the work you do in accomplishing our mission and in ensuring that all Americans find fairness and inclusion in the federal banking system.