Atlanta's leading black ministers have agreed to call for a boycott if banks do not change their lending practices soon, and at least two banks said Wednesday they will announce special loan programs before the week ends.
And a high-ranking member of the House Banking Committee said Congress should hold hearings in Atlanta to investigate bank lending practices. Rep. Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia said he would urge congressional leaders to demand explanations from federal bank regulators.
The actions followed articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported last week that banks and savings and loan associations rarely make home loans in black neighborhoods at any income level, have closed branches or reduced hours in black or integrated neighborhoods, and rarely solicit real estate agents in black neighborhoods.
First Atlanta and Citizens and Southern banks said Wednesday they are working on programs to increase lending in the city's predominantly black Southside. Details of programs, with possible participation from other lenders, are expected to be announced at a press conference, called for Friday morning by Council President Marvin Arrington.
The group of black ministers, Concerned Black Clergy, discussed a boycott at its weekly meeting on Monday, several members said Wednesday. The group agreed to give the banks up to 10 days to announce specific changes.
"The problem is not omission. It's overt racism," said Joe Beasley of Antioch Baptist Church North, political liaison for Concerned Black Clergy. "It's clear the black churches can play a role. We have half a million members in congregations across the state, and we have millions of dollars in the banks."
One black minister who did not attend the meeting said he will call this Sunday for his congregation to remove deposits from white-owned banks.
"We're going to boycott them," said the Rev. Quincy Carswell of the 2,000-member Tabernacle Baptist Church. "Our bank officials have been very arrogant. We haven't heard any corrective actions or methods being taken. It seems like our money is a different color than the other money. My position is they ought to be taught a lesson."
A minister who now holds a seat in Congress, Fauntroy said he was notified of the situation by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
"I can understand the outrage that the community feels," Fauntroy said. "At some point a boycott may be necessary, but a community's best leverage is with the Congress of the United States."
The House Banking Committee is considering permitting banks to underwrite securities and offer other services that have been off-limits to banks since the Depression. Consumer groups hope to tie tougher fair-lending laws to the expanded-powers law.
"I'm sure those very banks in Atlanta would want to acquire these expanded powers, and an active community which has been roused by this information should extract specific commitments from the banks in exchange for additional powers," Fauntroy said.
Black business leaders will honor a white banker today at the annual luncheon of the Atlanta Business League. The black business group will present its Business Assistance Support Award to Robert Strickland, chairman and chief executive officer of Trust Company Bank "for his fairness and his generous response to the call for help."
"The awards were determined some four months ago," said John Cox, chairman of the business league and an officer of Delta Air Lines. "The award is primarily for Bob's fairness as an individual, and we feel good about giving it to him."Go to the next article or back to the Color of Money index or Power Reporting
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