wealth distribution

Iowa church could help future Black-owned bank

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This is part five of a five-part story published in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and Word In Black.

ReShonda Young walks through the church whose property could become the site of a bank she hopes to open in Waterloo, Iowa. October 23, 2021. Photo by Brenna Norman for the Center for Public Integrity.

WATERLOO, Iowa — When Matthew Gilbert heard about the Bank of Jabez, it pinged an old memory: his great-aunt telling him that his great-grandfather had started a bank.

Gilbert, an attorney who works on economic inclusion and talks regularly with ReShonda Young about how to move the needle in Waterloo, started digging. 

He found that his ancestor, Dr. Lee Furgerson, joined forces in 1947 with other Black community leaders to launch the Black Hawk Savings & Loan Association, named after their county. It opened in the building where Furgerson practiced.

Perhaps this institution helps explain Waterloo’s huge jump in Black homeownership between 1940 and 1950. It’s hard to know because so few records are left.

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