The Rise and Fall of Chicago's First Black Banker
by Don Hayner
Pub Date 15 Nov 2019
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Binga is the definitive full-length biography of Jesse Binga, the first black banker in Chicago. Born into a large family in Detroit, Binga arrived in Chicago in 1892 in his late twenties with virtually nothing. Through his wits and resourcefulness, he rose to wealth and influence as a real estate broker, and in 1908 he founded the Binga Bank, the first black-owned bank in Chicago. But his fall was equally notable. Binga recounts this gripping story about race, history, politics, and finance in Chicago.
Chicago’s Black Belt was a sliver of land several miles long and a half mile wide on the city’s South Side. Created by segregation, it was a city within a city, and its growth can be traced through the arc of Binga’s career. He preached and embodied an American gospel of self-help and accrued wealth while expanding housing options and business opportunities for blacks. A devout Catholic, he and his wife Eudora supported church activities and various cultural and artistic organizations. Their annual Christmas party was the Black Belt’s social event of the year.
But his success came at the price of a vicious backlash. After Binga moved his family into a white neighborhood in 1917, his house was bombed multiple times, his offices were attacked twice, and he became a lightning rod for the worst race riots in Chicago history (1919). He persevered, but, starting with the stock market crash of October 1929, a string of reversals cost Binga his bank, his property, and his fortune.
A quintessentially Chicago story, Binga tells the story of racial change in one of the most segregated cities in America. Binga illuminates how an extraordinary Chicagoan stood as a symbol of hope in a community isolated by racial animosity.
A Note From the Publisher
"There is arguably no better icon of Chicago history that deserves such a dramatic and gripping treatment than Jesse Binga." —Davarian L. Baldwin, author of Chicago's New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life