ReShonda Young made an offer on this church property in Waterloo.

Jamie Smith Hopkins
Center for Public Integrity

This is the final part of a five-part story published in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and USA TODAY.

WATERLOO, Iowa — When Matthew Gilbert heard about the Bank of Jabez, it pinged an old memory: his great-aunt telling him that his great-grandfather had started a bank.

Gilbert, an attorney who works on economic inclusion and talks regularly with ReShonda Young about how to move the needle in Waterloo, started digging. 

He found that his ancestor, Dr. Lee Furgerson, joined forces in 1947 with other Black community leaders to launch the Black Hawk Savings & Loan Association, named after their county. It opened in the building where Furgerson practiced.

Perhaps this institution helps explain Waterloo’s huge jump in Black homeownership between 1940 and 1950. It’s hard to know because so few records are left.

Furgerson, the first Black physician in the city, died the year after the savings and loan’s founding, the victim of an intestinal obstruction. He was just 49. Another of the four founding officers died two years after that. 

“Their Adelphi Bank might be the one to break the 22-year drought in Black bank startups.”

Gilbert, thinking of the health toll of discrimination and the wealth toll of lost working years, looked for more details about the financial institution’s existence and couldn’t find anything beyond the late 1950s. 

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