A Black church in Birmingham with an important history and a credit union
Birmingham, like many southern cities, has its own distinctive culture, rooted in its foundation in the steel industry and history of Jim Crow. An economic hub for Alabama even today, Birmingham is both an overwhelmingly Black and Christian town, with hundreds of Christian churches in the city and 73% of the metro population identifying as Black. Baptists, specifically, are the most populous denomination, and the influence that this particular denomination has on the culture of the city is considerable.
Birmingham is also a banking center for the area, and although there are many banks headquartered there, there are only a few which are either Black-owned or have a majority Black membership. At Better Banking Options, we look for banks and credit unions that make an effort to understand the particular banking needs of their specific community. We particularly celebrate institutions formed by members of underserved communities who seek to provide essential banking services to their own family, friends, and colleagues, as they’re personally invested in the financial success and development of their members.
Sixth Avenue Baptist Federal Credit Union is the credit union of a church with a long and important history in the Birmingham area, which you can read all about on their website. Opened in 1881, they describe their struggle to stay solvent during their early years, perhaps informing their decision to provide financing to their members when they opened the credit union in 1963. During the civil rights era during the ’60s, they hosted three of the four funerals for the girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Pastor John Thomas Porter was arrested three times in civil rights protests, along with other pastors of black churches in the area.
Sixth Avenue Baptist has been working in their local community for 140 years, and they use all of this experience to inform how they run their credit union. Their employees and members all also belong to the church, enabling them to keep capital moving within this very personal community. Although they don’t do a ton of quality lending, this may be because they do more alternative and small loans, as well as providing essential banking services to their clergy. They’re designated as both an LICU and a MCU.
Sixth Avenue Baptist is an unusual Better Banking Option for us to feature, as it is specifically for members of the church and their family members. However, if you do happen to have a relative associated with the church, this is a great place to keep your deposits. They offer online banking to their members, quite a feat for credit unions of their size. We’d recommend them highly to anyone who attends the church or whose immediate family members attend, as small church credit unions like this provide personal and essential banking services to intimate communities.