William Washington Browne – December 24th in African American History

December 24, 1881 The Order of True Reformers was founded by William Washington Browne in Richmond, Virginia.

The Order was a fraternal organization of African Americans in southern states organized for the purpose of setting up business and social avenues in which Negroes could participate. Several prosperous business enterprises came out of The Order, including those that sold insurance to blacks when other companies refused.

A savings bank was established in 1888 and in 1892 a real estate department was formed. In January, 1893, they began publishing a bimonthly newspaper. In 1899, The Order received a charter for the Reformers’ Mercantile and Industrial Association, the purpose of which was to manufacture, buy and sell, groceries, goods and articles of merchandise of any description. This was the beginning of the Negro businessman in insurance and banking. The story of the organization is told in “The Black Lodge in White America: True Reformer Browne and His Economic Strategy” (1994).

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