Bank Chain Apologizes for Involvement in Slavery
ED GORDON, host:
I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
JOSHUA LEVS reporting:
This is Joshua Levs in Atlanta.
One of the nation's largest banks this week apologized for its historical ties to slavery. Wachovia Corporation said two institutions that ultimately became part of Wachovia owned slaves. The North Carolina-based bank said it commissioned a private firm to investigate the bank's history, and the records are incomplete, but the historical research firm The History Factory found that the Georgia Railroad & Banking Company owned at least 162 slaves. The Bank of Charleston accepted at least 529 slaves as collateral on mortgaged properties or loans and acquired some when customers defaulted. Wachovia Chairman and CEO Ken Thompson issued a statement apologizing to, quote, "all Americans and especially to African-Americans and people of African descent. We are deeply saddened by these findings," he said.
Wachovia said it commissioned the study after some major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, passed laws requiring companies that do business with them to conduct this kind of research. Previously, New York-based JP Morgan Chase found two banks that later became part of it had accepted slaves in Louisiana as collateral. Chase followed with a $5 million scholarship program for Louisiana students.
Wachovia said it will work with community partners who have expertise in furthering awareness and education of African-American history and culture. It said the effort will include a commitment of financial resources. CEO Thompson said, quote, "We know that we cannot change the past and we can't make up for the wrongs of slavery, but we can learn from our past and begin a stronger dialogue about slavery and the experience of African-Americans in our country.
For NPR News, I'm Joshua Levs in Atlanta.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.