Historic credit union created by Black educators celebrates legacy

Richmond Heritage Federal was created for Black teachers in 1936, when they were not allowed to bank with whites

Community members on Tuesday celebrated the history of the first and last Black federal credit union in Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union thegrio.com
Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union (image from Street View by Google Maps )

Community members on Tuesday celebrated the history of the first and last Black federal credit union in Richmond, Virginia.

According to NBC 12, the Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union was started by Virginia Union University alumni who decided to create a bank for Black educators. During that time, African-Americans were not allowed in white-owned establishments.

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Ever since then, the credit union has “survived the ever-changing financial environment” for 83 years.

“It was started by 10 African-American teachers in 1936, and this was done in the middle of the great depression,” said Randy Cooper, president of Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union.

Before the credit union found its official home in the Southside area of Richmond, the union began in one of the founders’ kitchen.

“She would actually keep the money in the kitchen drawer, so when people would come to get their money or borrow money she would pull the drawer out, the money out, and pull a fork out because they were feeding physically and financially,” Cooper said.

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He said the founding members didn’t care where and how the job would get done, all that mattered was that people had access to their money.

Retired board member Catherine Makin said at the event that she had seen for herself, how the credit union was able to stand the test of time. Many of the founders were her teachers in elementary and high school.

“I grew up in the Great Depression, which means that we didn’t have a lot, so it was necessary for us to obtain something,” Makin said. “My teachers were positive, and they always taught you can do more and I’m expecting more of you.”

The retired board member said she is happy that the credit union still exists. She said she doesn’t know where she would be without it today.

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Since the bank is the only of its kind still surviving in the Virginia city, employees want to continue to celebrate its legacy. They are doing so by continuing to put the community first.

“We want people to share the story we want people to inspire others to be apart of something bigger themselves,” Cooper said. “At the end of the day we want people to profit from the relationships.”