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This Day in Black History: Feb. 16, 1874

Frederick Douglass was elected president of Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.

The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was established as a secure banking institution where Black soldiers could save their money and also to encourage the African-American community to save. President Abraham Lincoln signed a law incorporating it on March 3, 1865. On Feb. 16, 1856, Frederick Douglass was elected president of the then-failing bank.

Initially headquartered in New York, and then Washington, D.C., Freedman's opened 37 branches in 17 states between 1865 and 1871. During that period, it also took in deposits of more than $2.9 million. That money was lost, however, due to over-expansion,  mismanagement and fraud.

Douglass invested $10,000 of his own money in the institution, unaware that its solvency was uncertain. In June 1874, he petitioned Congress to close the bank.

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(Photo: Library of Congress)

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