This presentation explores the ways by which the Freedman's Savings Bank attempted to reintegrate former slaves into US society after emancipation by educating them about the connection between being a virtuous citizen and engaging in particular patterns of work and saving. It argues that the acceptance of this connection by freedpeople was among the most important ways by which many people evaluated their successful transition from slavery to freedom. However, this measure of personal success was contingent on decisions that were beyond the control of individual depositors and that eventually led to the failure of the Bank. Ultimately, this presentation will demonstrate that while encouraging former slaves to work for wages, practice thrift, and save their money in savings banks served to acclimate them to contemporary economic orthodoxy, it did little to help them achieve lasting success. Indeed, the Freedman's Savings Bank and other institutions like it encouraged an approach to money and a labor strategy that used ideas about virtuous citizenship to trade financial security among African Americans for the stabilization of a capitalistic labor, production, and investment market that was threatened by the turmoil wrought by the Civil War.
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