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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Renee

Charles Banks | Pioneering Entrepreneur

Once called “the most influential Negro businessman in the United States," Charles Banks (1873-1923) co-founded the Bank of Mound Bayou in the all-Black settlement of Mound Bayou, the Mound Bayou Cotton Oil Mill (and all-Black enterprise), and secured funding to establish the Carnegie Public Library in the same town.

Charles Banks, born to formerly enslaved Daniel A. and Sallie Ann Banks, was educated in the Coahoma County school system and briefly attended Rust University before leaving school to start his own business.

In 1893, at age 20, Charles opened the eponymous Banks and Bro. Mercantile. In the early 1900s, he attended the inaugural meeting of the National Negro Business League—an event where he'd meet Booker T. Washington, the name who'd call him "the most influential Negro businessman in the United States."

Charles would later become this organization's vice president.

Committed to continued professional and personal growth, Charles moved to the all-Black town of Mound Bayou and established its first bank, The Bank of Mound Bayou. Charles continued to grow his empire, venturing into the sales of building supplies, land speculation, cotton brokerage, blacksmithy, and insurance.

By 1912, Banks had amassed a net worth equivalent to $3.1 million in 2023 when adjusted for inflation.

Along with establishing businesses in Mound Bayou, Charles worked to improve the community. He played a large part in establishing the town’s library by working to secure the necessary funds from Andrew Carnegie.

Charles also involved himself in politics, even meeting with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. He remained active in civic and religious organizations until he was felled by food poisoning in 1923.



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