February is Black History Month. The centering of African American excellence and achievement, in America, has long been celebrated in February. As a country, for nearly a half-century, we have been able to nationally observe, reaffirm, and uphold the importance of Black History Month.
February is a time where the great work and accomplishments of African Americans are recognized and celebrated. The overwhelming number of obstacles and hardships that African Americans have faced in this country is astounding. We would like to highlight the pioneers, leaders, and innovative individuals in the financial industry who didn’t let up against all odds. We appreciate the work they have done that has help further everyone who has come after them.
As unified as we are today, we recognize that it hasn’t always been this way, and that we still have a long way to go. During a time of segregation and a lack of resources, there had to be people who said enough was enough to accomplish great things in our world. America has gone through a lot of difficult changes over the decades. The mortgage industry is just one major sector under the umbrella of financial areas that has experienced these changes, for the better.
Here are significant trailblazers who made major contributions to the world of finance.
Ben Slayton has been a leader in the African American community since he became the first African American REALTOR® in America in 1964. Afterward, he went on to become the first African American mortgage company owner and broker in the United States. Since then, he has started, built, and sold several successful businesses in the real estate industry.
Historically, the 1960s were focused on fighting the discriminatory institutions in place to make opportunities fair for everyone. Slayton’s efforts to obtain this are inspiring. For the past 62 years, his commitment to the financial industry has been to make the purchase of a new home or a refinance of an existing home easier for the African American population. By opening branch offices in every city in the United States that has 25 percent or more African American population, he stays true to that commitment. Slayton also hires local mortgage professionals in the Black communities and gives them the tools, loan programs, and resources, they can compete head-to-head with any mortgage lender in the United States.
Maggie Lena Walker
Born to enslaved parents in the 1860s, Maggie Lena Walker was one of the foremost female business leaders in the country. She gained national prominence when, in 1903, she became both the first African American woman to charter a bank and the first African American woman to serve as a bank president. Walker’s entrepreneurial skills transformed black business practices, while also inspiring other women to enter the field.
Black History is not only made up of accomplishments from the past. It is an ever-growing history that is being made to this day. Below are individuals who are currently striving to close the gap of inequality and racial injustice in the financial and housing industry.
In 2021, Kiko Davis made history as the only black female bank owner in the United States.
She is the owner of First Independence Bank in Detroit, Michigan, and trustee of the Donald Davis Living Trust. And as the first Black woman bank owner in the United States, she has a passion for seeing women in leadership roles, according to sis2sis.com.
As executive director at the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Lisa Rice works tirelessly to advance fair housing principles and to preserve and broaden fair housing protections, expanding equal housing opportunities for millions of Americans. Rice has helped lead teams that have investigated, brought, and resolved precedent-setting fair housing cases resulting in the elimination of systemic discriminatory practices in the areas of lending, appraisals, insurance, rental, and real estate.
When it comes to giving back to disenfranchised communities, HOPE Enterprise Corporation CEO Bill Bynum is a model for future generations of housing leaders. Living in Mississippi, Bynum understands firsthand how African Americans have been disproportionately shut out of achieving homeownership. HOPE Enterprise has generated more than $2.5 billion in financing that has benefited more than one million people in one of the nation’s most impoverished regions.
McCargo is a leading voice on housing affordability and homeownership and her research informs the work of nearly every policymaker in Washington D.C. Recently, she has explored the important role black Millennials can play in helping close the homeownership gap. Her research not only makes the case for marketing to this important demographic, but it has also informed housing leaders on where to target potential first-time homebuyers.
Lacy Clay dedicated his life to public service and are leading political forces on housing affordability and closing the racial homeownership gap.
These trailblazer’s efforts and commitment to bringing our country closer to equality will never be forgotten or go unnoticed. As a company, we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Black community, fight against racial inequality, and continue to learn how to help bring justice to our community, this month, and every month.