Wachovia Completes Research

Under this otherwise unassuming title is a press release stating that Wachovia did research into its history to find which of its ancestor institutions might have owned slaves.

Earlier this year, Wachovia contracted with The History Factory, a leading historical research firm, to conduct research on the predecessor institutions that, over many years, formed our company.

The resulting research revealed that two of our predecessor institutions, the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company and the Bank of Charleston, owned slaves.

Due to incomplete records, we cannot determine precisely how many slaves either the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company or the Bank of Charleston owned. Through specific transactional records, researchers determined that the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company owned at least 162 slaves, and the Bank of Charleston accepted at least 529 slaves as collateral on mortgaged properties or loans, and acquired an undetermined number of these individuals when customers defaulted on their loans.

We are deeply saddened by these findings. We apologize to all Americans, and especially to African-Americans and people of African descent.

This is kind of amazing, really. I’m not sure if I can articulate how… I mean, it never would’ve occurred to me (even as a relatively liberal and thoughful and historically-conscious person) to look into the history of a company this way. To some degree you wonder if it’s relevant, but then again the success of this bank is dependent in part upon the success of its ancestry.

When you really think about it, we’re not talking about *that* long ago. I live in a building from the 1850’s. The floors were walked by people who lived through the Civil War. It only takes three grandparents back for me to be connected to somebody who was alive at that time.

It makes me wonder what sorts of conversations went on at Wachovia, how it came about, etc. I’m fascinated with how corporations as a sort of aggregate personality take such nuanced and vulnerable actions.

Anyway, it was just sort of a surprising thing to run into as I went to check my balance today.

Author: Andrew Hinton

I use information to architect better places for humans. More at andrewhinton.com.