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tv   Shennette Garrett- Scott Banking on Freedom  CSPAN  November 11, 2020 11:57pm-12:58am EST

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>> welcome back to our centennial speaker series. thank you for joining for today's event featuring jeanette garrett scott. if this is your first thing joining us, i have the honor of serving as the dean of the school of business. 2020 marks a very special year for the school. it's our 100th anniversary and we are celebrating 100 years of purpose driven education. since our inception, we believe in the power of partnerships to inform and lead change. i very much like to thank the
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center for global security analysis and our wonderful partners, the museum of american finance and the society of new york whose cosponsoring today's conversation. one of the goals of the centennial series is to shine the light on the importance history plays in shaping the future. in the latest book black women in u.s. finance before the new deal, she explores a period of financial innovation and its transformative impact on u.s. capitalism. today's session will take place in three parts. first, my colleague and friend, president and ceo of the museum of american finance and we will introduce doctor garrett scott. then she will discuss her book banking on freedom. following this discussion, david
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and i will facilitate audience questions. we ask that you type your questions in the q and a section near the bottom of the screen. i am also excited to share that as a participant of today's webinar, you will be entered into a raffle to win a free copy of the book banking on freedom. winners will be notified by the end of the week. and finally, before i turn over to david to do a formal introduction, i do want to remind everyone that both the school and the museum rely on your financial support to continue the mission. so i encourage you to take some time to think about a donation to both of our outstanding organizations. now i would like to turn over to david. >> thank you, donna and it's always great to be back with you and the friends we have and of course the cfa. our speaker today is a native that received her phd at the
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university of texas and currently a professor at ole ms., the university of mississippi. in her research and writing she brings to the floor the issues of race, gender and capitalism. the research behind this book is incredible. there are over 475 detailed footnotes read the book has received much praise including awards from the organization of american historians, the association of black women historians, the historical associations best book and southern economic history and it was also on the shortlist for the prize for the best book in business history in 2020. ....
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>> welcome. >> thank you so much for the wonderful introduction and also thank you for inviting me and everyone who made this possible. i will share my stream and we will go ahead and get started
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i appreciate people taking time out of their busy schedules to spend at learning more about black women's contributions to finance. so today, i will talk for about 35 minutes and talk about the world of finance in harlem before the stock market crash focusing on one company and use it to explore how black women use financial institutions that they lead and control to challenge the strength of jim crow and sexism and economic exploitation to use companies to carve out possibilities for themselves with us economy and society and they understood that motions and ideas the
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risks were shaped by gender and race along the economic ladder not just by these factors and processes but taking an active role of risk and opportunity and although i acknowledge those limitations that they face because of race and gender and class i want to demonstrate how black women defined their value with those messages they received with citizens and economic actors also with the larger us economy so we should have a good amount of time left for
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questions and answers. the best way to understand the corporations through two women who were vitally important that is charity jones so in the next slide he will see two images. so we will start by imagining there currently lives in new york the challenges that black women face of how the harlem branch and then to talk about
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the successes and the challenges that they face especially the finance corporation board comprised of almost family of women so let's get started. charity. charity hesitated a moment before she stepped onto the dusty dirt street. what am i doing she thought to herself? this is stupid and between her old life that laid behind her and this awful new place. the smell and the noise and the people. so many buzzing like flies rising from the street and this is 1885 and charity paused for a while with the
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streetcar beckoning and she glanced back when she returned to eight dead babies? all of them taking from her those that would never toddle a few steps so she drew in her breath and put her feet on the ground and did not look back with the streetcar windows coming from back home. but lulu hesitated a moment before she stepped onto the wooden floor and then those
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people tightening together this was harlem 1916 with those backstage goings on so lulu drew in her breath darkness swallowed up the side of the stage where she stood only a moment ago and dared not look back that holding onto silence.
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and they had very different experiences so they did share some important things in common of course charity's only child, a son with hundreds of thousands of other black women they also left the south for better lives for the north to escape the humiliating social etiquette and the sexual violence of jim crow and excitement and then to share a diversion with a secret society that is founded
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by black women. so in 1899 it came under the leadership of the ambitious maddie walker. saint luke's would become one of the most successful black controlled and very few largely black women controlled commercial institutions in the country. with the bank in the insurance company and it posted 100,000 members and employed nearly 200 people and the majority of them women and those assets that are equivalent to $31 million. so one important venture and
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involved lulu and charity and that was the finance corporation headquartered in harlem organized in the late 19 teens in the district of the independent order of st. luke's reflects the opportunity for women in us finance so a complex tapestry by controlled financial institutions including formal banks and insurance companies savings clubs, industrial loan association with this complex tapestry to control millions
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and then around world war i and with these financial institutions serve as strategies the st. luke's finance corporation chose to promote these anxieties a black women's bodies on the urban spaces. and these conflicting tensions as both the victims but also the sources of social disorder
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so with a stretch these financial institutions like the order of st. luke's? they desire better career options they reject the efforts to police their behavior and the way they spend their leisure time and with the promises of investment and then as a way to destroy a the middle of jim crow also growing tired of these pictures that implied that men are the producers and consumers of these products and these markers of citizenship so the financial institution that experimented with those ways to raise capital they struggled with
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the course of the intractable problems and from my book to do with the number of forces so here i will focus on the rise in the fall of the finance corporation. 1916 and the new york district of st. luke's headquartered in harlem elected a new president. the harlem st. luke's $3.45 in the coffers that was more than $500 in debt. but the ambitious group of women so in 1981 these women incorporated the saint luke's
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finance corporation setting their sites with investment in real estate six of the seven members of the finance corporation board and lulu robinson and jones show the advice of the committee so to turn to charity to help them recruit new members and she solidified her status knowing the mother of st. luke's in new york and her efforts to membership in the new york district sword in the midst of the great migration. not the women's charms alone of fuels a resurgence in those members, the square focus, the laser focus on addressing the needs of black women so tested
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and expanded the boundaries of these organizations this model a black women who do we have scholars talking about the new negro woman with their political importance and then among the priorities and then they desperately needed jobs and housing and then to understand this dilemma intimately i suspect in the mid to late 19 teens like many young black women and with those limited opportunities with housing conditions skyrocketing went over placing and overcrowding so robinson
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jones and the other women were able to borrow $3000 from the saint luke think in richmond they were that they were just unable to do so because real estate investment and that was compounded that made the cost of credit and consideration that made the cost of credit and consideration envisioning
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and then to understand the business of leisure in harlem and arranged these fundraising affairs combining entertainment and enterprise to organize the fundraising reception at the manhattan casino with a very famous orchestra so raising enough money to secure a mortgage on the building the former content on west 130th street in 1921 just a few years later a 24 room apartment building on west 129 stream that is called the casanova.
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in 1922 with that former content and the harlem st. luke's equivalent of the modern dollars on 130th. and then to accommodate everything from pageants and church groups to international delegations the restaurant and retail store on 139th street.
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with the steel monument of black economic progress of the black community st. luke's hall became an important center for business and community activities and entertainment. so the pastor of first emmanuel church has a place for the bootlegging and the pastor of the applicable church in the adopted father called st. luke's hall nothing less then one of the hellholes
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of god. and the office spaces in st. luke's hall and they ran the numbers game the highly profitable lottery it was very popular. so in the business of leisure both in the formal and extralegal economies in harlem. let's recount. so in 1918 and within a few years to make that ambitious
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and lucrative real estate investment so by 1929 little more than a decade st. luke's went from being nearly $400 in debt to having women $5 million as a very conservative modern-day dollars. these were in parties. and those to reword failure, to leave it undercapitalized and to generate more than $10000 of annual profits and that attempt is $120,000 of modern-day dollars fermenting spaces in the hall and with those revenues to provide jobs of two dozen employees that
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public commitment with charitable assistance so safe affordable quality housin housing, retail spaces offering fair prices with a variety of goods and services of good paying stable jobs respectable and not so respectable of leisure activities these are important priorities for black women in particular in black communities in general these were social economic and political concerns that animated the women who were leading the st. luke's finance corporation so the equivalent of one.2 million dollars of modern-day dollars from a bond
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offering the incredible amount of money they were able to raise the democratization among communities or me say that another way it demonstrates the ways that investing more popular were accessible for most african-americans and also revealed a commitment to their commitment to self-help so to highlight black people's participation with investment and get rich quick schemes one.2 million dollars $1000 loans with the harlem fortune
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and also with the creative financing i will not go in detail here but with the schemes of the finance corporation in such a short amount of time so that economic downturn coupled with past investigations to similar organizations like marcus garvey and with the financial schemes and those other organizations and to make st. luke's formidable and in 1828 the new york state attorney general began an
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investigation and then ordered the district to sell the real estate holdings and just as i imagined at the beginning of my talk and lulu robinson moving to and through new york city and how they lost the crown jewels she has lost her home and lived in st. luke's hall. i know that she died in 1929
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and still at 127 west 30th street. and then to tell the census taker that she was not working and was unemployed but it is very likely that she never again hold such a powerful position in a multimillion dollar concern. so by illuminating the story of the rise and fall in this serve which the st. luke's finance corporation to commit these major developments in us history with reconstruction
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and the gilded age and the great migration and world war i and the new negro era and trying to recover the role that black women played in the development of modern american capitalism i acknowledge that they made i cannot explore the exploitative aspects or the destructive ways the way they severely limited opportunities looking at the saint luke finance corporation we see investment of institution building and resistance to stand alongside other kinds of economic justice like the hunger strike where the boycott that creditors and debtors and consumers with
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owners of stock and policyholders tried to transform racial capitalism through a women centered articulation of black economic self-determination they have to mention where i got the title. i hope you are familiar with the numbers game that was so popular in the late 19th century to the seventies and to play the numbers so if your number hits you can turn pocket change into a couple hundred dollars so a veritable industry arises out love the ease numbers of gains.
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and those can help you protect your lucky numbers also dream books. so you can look in the dream book and find the combination attached or maybe look up yellow or three numbers associated with yellow and you try looking at these numbers to win so in the twenties and thirties with the explanation dream of colored people to say this is an excellent dream for all promises which is an extraordinary good health with great success and to
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foreigners to the brokenhearted courage. and with that dream book description of colored people because i imagine the women of the st. luke's finance corporation were dreaming of the african american community so thank you all so much thank you for inviting me. >> it is our pleasure that i cannot leave escape talking about the woman that adorns the cover of your book. it is amazing her circumstances born and raised
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and the place you may be able to visit and on a more sober note what would she say about what's going on in this country because she's such a focal point. >> i was telling daisy, we try to have some objectivity, but it is hard not to be so depressed so megan walker was enslaved at the end of the civil war in richmond virginia and she said herself grew up with the wash basket on her head not a silver spoon in her mouth and grew up for. but her circumstances in her life shaped her vision, her economic vision for black women in particular and was intimately involved
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independent order of st. luke's and in 1899 and really transform that organization on its last legs in 1899 and she communicated this vision she wanted to open a store and a factory and a pink and that she succeeded in doing that opening the spiny savings bank in 1983 the first to be led by a black woman and also very active politically and socially all around the country and those really great articles that came out a couple weeks ago the wall street journal that focuses
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for women in the present day wot revising the work she did at the bank as well as the independent
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order of st. luke's insurance company and so she always talked about a black woman's way of banking and i think we could learn a lot about banking that is attuned to the practical needs of the communities served and that it centers them so i think as the pandemic for example, she would argue about using sounds and lending criteria but kind of you raising some of the structural institutional any qualities that are inherent in things like credit scores, so to look at multiple other kinds of sources to vet people's credit worthiness. small investments and what we think of as micro- finance today. so, those are the kind of things
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i think she would, if she were here today, she would look around and be ready to kind of pull up her sleeves and really put her shoulder into kind of a transforming shrinking the racial wealth gap which is what she tried to do in 1903 and definitely in 2020. >> thank you so much. a great story with real meaning today. really incredible. we have a question asking do you know whether any st. luke's counsel in the northern cities tried to organize similar financial experiments? >> yes, i do. i know that in philadelphia some of the largest were harlem and
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washington, d.c. and i know that in washington, d.c. they tried to do something very similar. they tried to build a saint luke call and it was the model of creating the finance corporation that could raise the funds needed to invest in these real estate ventures and they tried to do that in philadelphia and dc. then i also would say particularly in the south, but i'm not as familiar with the north, that even on a small scale, we had women raised thousands of dollars to build small brick or wood buildings they called the st. luke's
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headquarters, so places i think there's one in lynchburg virginia and some other small towns especially throughout virginia where african-american women were able to do this on a smaller scale. >> the next question comes from a friend who wants to know why do the banks and institutions disappear and how many if any are still around? >> before, so there were over 100 that have been formed between 1888 when the first one was chartered in richmond known as the great capitalism but even on the eve of the great depression, part of the reason they disappeared had to do with many factors. many of them could be attributed
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to structural racism. so we had these things that were often limited in where they could operate and they focused largely on african-americans who tended to make less money and they had difficulty accessing credit. also the banking knowledge other banks were able to get, but i do want to say even though these were crippling circumstances under which to try to make a banking venture go, african-americans did innovate in ways to try to overcome the barriers. there was the national negro bankers association revived again in the 1920s.
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they would send people with some experience in the country to try to share what knowledge they had with these banks but often they were targeted by the new banking regulations. on the one hand they seem very neutral but they were used by the states to wipe out the progress of the map and then of course like other banks and other financial institutions, they just simply couldn't whether the storm of the great depression and so coming out of the great depression there was a revival especially around world
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war i and in the 50s with the number of banks. the number changes all the time. there is a movement that encourages all people to invest and to deposit $100 to build them up so there is that hashtag and there is also a website bank black with a list you can search for them by your area code or part of the country that you are in and it includes both online and brick and mortar banks. and we have a handful of banks that are more than 100-years-old still in existence today. >> excellent, wonderful. i have a comment and a question
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from caitlin rose can -- caitlin rose kennedy. the question is about the ideas of racial uplift and if they tied into the running of st. luke's, for example, did it ever bar certain groups considered to be unfit representatives of the race like poor unwed black women, did it bar them from participating in the finance capitalism? >> she's one of my former students. definitely the politics played a role in black finance and plaque capitalism, but not necessarily in restricting people who might have been considered an respectable while participating
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in these kind affect these. in fact she was the product of rape, i think i could convincingly argue that. she had women that had been subjected to racial sexual violence and so being an unwed mother for example, wasn't necessarily something that would kind of cast you out of the realm of respectability. and also, she was committed to seeing financial independence, economic literacy and a path forward because these women had to take care of the families and their roles in the communities were important in terms of philanthropy and working in churches and their activism and so she saw lending -- she tried
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to make lending a respectable activity as a way to kind of lift themselves out of their poverty, but i do have to say as the way she ran the insurance company, there was a point where she was a little old-fashioned and so the younger women who were able to take advantage of the opportunities, that first generation were able to provide this younger generation where they kind of changed under some of the restrictions. they didn't want to have a prayer devotion before work. they wanted a most colorful latest fashion. they wanted to go to movies and
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listen to jazz music and so there is a kind of politics of respectability that i think generationally about what the older generation of african-american women who are trying to provide these opportunities and the younger generation of women who were taken advantage of those opportunities, but i wanted to do things their own way. >> next question amplified from a couple of questions ago because you write extensively on the state bank examiners and how horrible they were to these banks. i think it was a north carolina case bragging about how they can go about shutting the banks down so it's awful. next question, laura thinks you as well as telling she wants to know the extent to which white and black men and white and black women supported the
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investment in st. luke's. >> sometimes it's hard to tell but definitely walker was really skilled in building interracial coalitions. it was something she knew she needed help with from the white community of richmond to accomplish her vision and her goals. so in terms of investment, there probably were some who did have a small account in the bank or may have bought stock in the bank to show that they were progressive and supportive of these kind of efforts for the black progress. but black banks not just
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st. luke's but many organizations in particular, insurance companies and black banks tried to make a point that they were largely black controlled uplifting the community and they made the appeal. some of them talked about and stressed that they were able to accomplish what they were able to accomplish without the white assistance or use of their services, so it is a complex question. on the one hand, you have white swhitesthat as a show of suppord participate minimally in the investment in these organizations, but african-americans at the same
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time were stressing that they didn't need or require participation to really showcase these organizations of progress and i want to say also that economic growth in business is an area you can get buy-in from the so-called radical to moderate. there were people who could be staunchly segregationist who could support the idea of a separate black economy and then you could have more liberal or moderate people to support a black separate economy. so again, the idea of the race and participation and their conception of the place of business and black separate
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economy on the one hand can be some progressive ideas but they could also have some regressive ideas as well. a. >> we have a question asking how do we build black wealth today and what lessons can we learn in harlem that can help us today? >> how do we build on wealth today i would say something that iisn't very popular but reparations is an issue that needs serious consideration so i'm hoping hr 40 will finally be debated and dealt with in congress and that is to create a commission to study the question of reparations not just for
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slavery but racial discrimination and inequities even beyond slavery so that is an important step forward and in terms of closing the wealth gap and building wealth today and again, like i said about walker, i also see that really embracing some part of her vision and the activity of these women is a way to try to build wealth, to try to look at the community concerns and to meet those needs which of course would take say raising large sums of money but by venturing the needs of the community that are articulated by the community so this is in for example like gentrification but actually listening to the voices of people in communities
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and different spaces and different industries and asking what do you want and what do you need and then crafting the programs and tools to help them meet those needs and at the same time also not chipping away, but working to dismantle the kind of barriers that have stood in their place. so here again, i will mention for example about lending. some people may say these communities, they are the value in the community is, they are not the same, they are declining or they are following. but that isn't an accident and so those, the banking and financial institutions in particular, those organizations including realtors, the groups that hope to create that
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situation need then to admit their complicity in creating these kind of places where these inequalities exist and then after we can have an honest conversation admitting the complicity, then talk about how can we now dismantle some of the practices and the narratives that we have had about the particular places and these ideas about the wealth and risk and opportunity and kind of redirect the conversation. >> you mentioned the attempt after the civil war so one of the things you can talk about that and you have a chapter
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about trying to get compensation and i don't think many people know about the freedmen's bank so i wonder if you can give us a little bit on that. >> believe it or not, they are doing a test if you hear the siren in the background so i will talk louder. the bank was created after the civil war, immediately after the civil war in 1865 and it lasted nearly a decade to 1874. it was a bank that was formed to serve the formerly enslaved. that was in the charter and it was one of the banks formed and chartered by the federal government, so we have the first bank of the united states, the second bank of the united states and the friedman's bank. they used a board of all white
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trusteeall-whitetrustees becaust trust african-americans to kind of know how to direct their financial futures and there was a kind of change in the bank that allowed it to be immense resources of a billion dollars circulated in terms of modern-day dollars in the near decade that it operated and through that corruption of the white trustees and other people connected to the bank like the finance user new york it led to the demise so that is the common story i just want to say in my book i try to look at how african-americans use the bank
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and from the plans and divisions thavisionsthat limited economicf these trustees to lend to meet their needs and then i also point out that, two parts i make about the bank is that black women, black people never abandon their network they forged through slavery and after. they put the bank in that network and even though the failure of the bank was devastating for people to lose as a symbol of progress and citizenship and opportunity and freedom, it convinced them that
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they needed to control their own financial institutions and so the upside is that it jumpstarted the movement. >> we have one final question by nancy wheeler. she thanks you for elevating the early women in finance and we all want to know other than handing out copies of your book how else can we educate people about these amazing women? >> there is the national park service that has a national video that it shows in the museum that you can access and learn more about it. i also think the pbs documentary
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the black experience in business is a start. it's two hours long. i am in that documentary and i can tell you i've talked for three hours. there's so much on the cutting floor i'm hoping it could be like the series but to give a quick grammar into the history of african-american business they bought the black experience in business which is available to stream on pbs and of course there is also so many other books. i will be sure to send a link. i am a part of the conference which is an international business organization and they've created a list that highlights minority business and so it includes a lot of work
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about african-american businesses that i've contributed. there's all kinds of books and articles you can find and i will be sure to send that link. >> thank you so much. on behalf of all of us, thank you so much. we had a terrific hour with you, so informative and we know we will hear a lot more in your career. thank you. >> thank you.


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