- NAME: Maggie Lena Walker
- OCCUPATION: Activist, Entrepreneur
- BIRTH DATE: July 15, 1864
- DEATH DATE: December 15, 1934
- EDUCATION: Lancaster School, Richmond Colored Normal School, Independent Order of St. Luke
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Richmond, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Richmond, Virginia
- Maiden Name: Maggie Lena Draper
- AKA: Maggie Lena Mitchell
- Nickname: Lizzie
- Nickname: "Lame Lioness"
- AKA: Maggie L. Walker
- AKA: Maggie L. Mitchell
- AKA: Maggie Mitchell Walker
- AKA: Maggie L. Draper
- AKA: Maggie Walker
- AKA: Maggie Draper
- AKA: Maggie Mitchell
- Full Name: Maggie Lena Draper Walker
- AKA: Maggie Lena Walker
Best Known For
Maggie Lena Walker was grand secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization dedicated to the social and financial advancement of African Americans.
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She also established a youth arm of the order to inspire social consciousness in young African Americans. In 1897, Walker gave birth to another son, Melvin, and two years later, became the Order of St. Luke's grand secretary.
When Maggie Walker assumed control of the Order of St. Luke, the organization was on the verge of bankruptcy. In a speech she gave in 1901, she outlined her plans to save it, and in the coming years, she would follow through on each item she had described. In 1902, Walker founded the St. Luke Herald to carry news of the Order of St. Luke to local chapters and to help with its educational work. The following year, she opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (of which she would be remain president until 1929). In 1905, she opened the St. Luke Emporium, a department store that offered African-American women opportunities for work and gave the black community access to cheaper goods.
In the midst of all of these accomplishments, however, tragedy visited Maggie Walker once more: In 1915, Russell Walker, mistaking his father for an intruder, shot and killed him as he was returning home one night. Russell was tried for murder, but was found innocent. Also around this time, Maggie Walker developed diabetes. Yet this did not deter her in her work.
In 1921, Walker ran for the seat of superintendent of public instruction on the Republican ticket, though she was defeated along with the other black Republican candidates. Her work for the Order of St. Luke, however, was meeting with much more favorable results. By 1924, under Maggie Walker's continued leadership, the bank served a membership of more than 50,000 in 1,500 local chapters. Additionally, she managed to keep the bank alive during the Great Depression, despite the fact that many were failing, by merging it with two other banks in 1929.
For the last few years of her life, Maggie Walker was confined to a wheelchair and continued to suffer from her diabetic condition, and on December 15, 1934, at age 70, she died from complications of the disease. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond. In 1979, her home on East Leigh Street, in the Jackson Ward neighborhood of Richmond, known as the "Harlem of the South," was purchased by the National Parks Service and became a National Historic Site.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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