Green and white awnings and a small sign are all that distinguish the Richmond home of Maggie L. Walker from neighboring duplexes that have been carefully restored to their appearance circa 1925. What distinguished Walker in her day was her skill at overcoming all the obstacles society could place before a black woman living under Jim Crow segregation laws.
But wait. Maggie who?
Maggie Lena Walker, the daughter of a former slave, was a black entrepreneur and civil rights activist who achieved business success at about the same time as the more well-known Vanderbilts, Carnegies and other Northern captains of industry were making their names. She was a respected resident of Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood during the early 20th century, when the area was experiencing its heyday.
Yes, Virginia, there is a side of Richmond known as the cradle of black capitalism, despite the fact that just a few decades earlier, during the Civil War, the city had served as the capital of the Confederacy.