Author: James D. Watkinson

ENTRY

Browne, William Washington (1849–1897)

William Washington Browne was a slave, a Union solder during the American Civil War (1861–1865), a teacher, a Methodist minister, and the founder of Richmond‘s Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, an African American fraternal organization. As leader of the True Reformers, Browne strived to help members live productive lives without depending upon the white community. By establishing insurance that provided members with sick and death benefits and by encouraging members to purchase land and engage in practices of temperance and thrift, Browne believed that blacks in the post–Civil War South could thrive. Browne’s enterprising mind helped lead the True Reformers in creating and organizing a bank which became the nation’s first chartered black financial institution and a model that others, such as Maggie Lena Walker, would follow. Browne died in 1897 and the True Reformers initially continued to prosper, but the order collapsed in the wake of the scandalous failure of its bank in 1910.

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