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African-American group asks help in history search
SHREVEPORT, La. (8/14/08)--The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) is looking for historical contributions to an exhibit, “A Journey of Hope--A Destination of Dreams,” set to be unveiled Oct. 16 at the American Credit Union Museum in Manchester, N.H. The AACUC, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is looking for more information to add to the exhibit. “We’re asking people to put in a nutshell the pivotal things they’ve accomplished,” Helen Godfrey-Smith, AACUC archive chairman and president/CEO of Shreveport (La.) FCU, told News Now. Examples of information include: the first African American credit union employee, member, league president, manager or CEO of a credit union with more than $100 million in assets. The exhibit will provide a history of African Americans in the credit union movement through touch-screen technology. Viewers can watch eight-minute vignettes of stories about African American credit union trailblazers. The exhibit also will feature photos.
Part of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC)’s exhibit was unveiled at a recent AACUC conference in Houston, Texas. From left are AACUC members Sheilah Montgomery, president/CEO, 1st Choice CU, Atlanta, and Helen Godfrey Smith, president/CEO, Shreveport (La.) FCU. (Photo provided by the African-American Credit Union Coalition)
“This year is the centennial of credit unions,” she said. “There are a lot of great stories. It’s so exciting to uncover tidbits of awesome work that has been done in the credit union movement to benefit African American communities.” The importance of the exhibit lies not only in its ability to show the past, but to look at the philosophies of the credit union movement that are “strong and solid today,” Godfrey-Smith said. Godfrey-Smith already has received responses and is searching for more. “Hopefully it will be an ongoing project for the next several years,” she said. “It’s really a labor of love. It’s an exciting time to uncover good tidbits about this movement I love so much.” Part of the exhibit was recently shown at an AACUC conference in Houston, Texas. Godfrey-Smith's research indicates that the first credit union, St. Mary’s Bank, opened its doors in 1908 just six months before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed. The NAACP adopted a strategy to charter credit unions in communities with its chapters, she said. The first African American credit union opened in Rowan County, N.C., in 1916. “From that point, the idea of community and access to [financial services] was essential for communities to develop,” Godfrey-Smith said. Godfrey-Smith, who has worked in the credit union movement since 1979, said the project is a “perfect match” for her. “I’ve been a student of history all my life,” she said.
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