MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Black-owned banks were once the backbone in the Black community, especially during the times of segregation. 

Commonwealth National Bank, the only Black-owned bank in lower Alabama, has worked to help families overcome financial discrimination over the years. 

Commonwealth has been a fixture in the Toulminville neighborhood since 1976.

“This is Black History. Not only Black History but Mobile history,” said CEO Sidney King. “Commonwealth is the only Black-owned Black that is headquartered in Mobile. All of the other banks that are here are headquartered somewhere else.”

Still on Saint Stephens Road, in the same spot where it all started. 

“They were charged with raising $1,000,000 of capital in raising one million dollars to open the bank,” said King.

“They went around everywhere they could. They had over one thousand shareholders and they could only raise $750,000 in doing that. The government allowed them to open with that $750,000 in a trailer that was right here on the building, on the lot.”

The bank helps finance families and businesses other banks turn away.

“You go back to the old days, they couldn’t go to the bathroom in some of those banks,” said King.

The US Census Bureau said Black families are rejected for credit at twice the rate for white applicants.

King said that’s why Black banks are needed. 

“It creates opportunities within those organizations,” he said. “Plus, with the businesses, they want to keep some of these businesses, where having a Black bank gives those businesses a better opportunity to grow and prosper because we better understand the uniqueness of our community.”

It’s the reason customers like Dan Nodd still make it a point to bank at Commonwealth.  

“I’ve never had a problem the last 40 or 50 years here,” said Nodd. “I understand we have other banks here in the city, but what better bank than your own bank? Your own Black bank. I’m for supporting Black.” 

“We often say, ‘Hey, come to the bank where one day your daughter can be president,’ and we have a little postcard showing a little African American girl,” said Commonwealth board chairman Patrick Cooper.

Cooper said the number of Black-owned banks across the country dwindled after Commonwealth first opened, but he’s seen some promise in recent years. 

“We’re very fortunate with the whole Black Lives Matter movement and the social justice movement where we’ve had a number of larger banks who have committed to putting capital into our bank. We’re probably better capitalized than we’ve ever been in the history of the bank,” Cooper said.

Cooper says Commonwealth remains committed to helping Black-owned businesses thrive here in Mobile. 

“What we would really love to see and find and see are some Black businesses that can really develop and grow to be players in the city because the stronger Black businesses are in Mobile, the stronger our bank is going to be in Mobile,” Cooper said.  

Commonwealth said they hope to expand to other areas on the Gulf Coast, including Pensacola and Gulfport.