Sharing the Legacy of an African-American Credit Union

By Anthony Scott, a member of the Self-Help communications staff

Loans have never come easily to black families, farmers and business owners, especially during the Jim Crow era. In this short documentary, we hear from two African Americans who bear witness to the economic struggles and the resourcefulness of a small community in rural Bertie County, NC. Their stories are the legacy of St. Luke Credit Union, now part of the Self-Help family.

During a January trip to rural Bertie County, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to meet several remarkable people. I traveled there with my Self-Help colleague, Roger Flake, to document the history of St. Luke Credit Union, founded in 1944. While there, we recorded a conversation with Mr. Charles Lee Sutton, who recounted his childhood memories of depositing his hard-earned dimes in a credit union where his parents were charter members.

We also met Mr. Timothy Bazemore, Sr., a proud man who tells the story of learning how to wisely save and borrow from an educator who helped to form St. Luke Credit Union. These lessons set the foundation for all the financial success Mr. Bazemore has achieved in his long life.

The result of these conversations is a short documentary that gives a flavor of what life has been like for generations of African-American families, farmers and business owners in rural Eastern North Carolina for more than 70 years, since the time of Jim Crow.

Appreciation to all my colleagues who helped with this production, especially our own Norma Wesson, branch manager extraordinaire in our Windsor branch. I also credit a few wonderfully creative works with giving me a crash course in appreciating eastern North Carolina. I’m thinking about the 2016 documentary named Raising Bertie, the 2013 book entitled African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, and, of course, the hit show A Chef’s Life, that’s currently running on North Carolina public television.

Be on the lookout for similar stories throughout the year as Self-Help produces more short histories on our legacy credit unions.

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