Why you should be banking with Tri-State Bank of Memphis

A historically significant Black bank lending in Memphis, TN


Although there has always been a large Black population in Memphis, since the 1950s the proportion of residents who are Black has steadily grown, going from 37% of the total populace to today’s 64%, as white residents moved to suburbs outside the metropolitan area. Black families in Memphis have been financially constrained by institutional racism, such as the redlining imposed in most U.S. cities. As a result of these and many other circumstances, the median income of households in Memphis is much lower than most metropolitan areas in the country.


That’s why it’s more important than ever to not only invest in Better Banking Options making quality loans in the Memphis area, but to specifically put our money in Black banks and credit unions that will circulate the money in communities that can benefit from it most.


by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
A mural of the "I Am a Man" protest that took place in Memphis, TN, during the Civil Rights Movement.

Tri-State Bank of Memphis is one of a handful of Black banking institutions in Memphis, and has been certified as a MDI as well as a CDFI. Tri-State was founded in 1946 by community leader Dr. J. Walker and his son, with the purpose of bettering the conditions of their community. Offering signature loans, real estate loans and church loans, Tri-State made $10 million in first-mortgage loans in their first ten years, resulting in home ownership for an estimated 2,000 Black families. This is particularly significant as they made these loans in the 1940s and ’50s, when traditional banking institutions rejected Black applicants for loans as a practice.


In addition to extending home ownership to many Black families in Memphis, Tri-State also played a role in the civil rights movement in the city. They were a local meeting place for community organizers and once stayed open into the night to provide bail money for protestors. When the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, was facing foreclosure in 1982, Tri-State loaned the facility $60,000 to keep it open, and the building eventually became the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.


Like many small banking institutions, Tri-State Bank of Memphis has struggled during the COVID pandemic, resulting in some changes in leadership on the board and the first reported profit loss since 2008. They still lend significantly to Black churches in Memphis, and their profit loss resulted in part from those churches seeing a steep decline in tithing. However, Tri-State is bouncing back by expanding their online banking options and will continuing to provide essential banking to Black communities and families in Memphis struggling with the effects of COVID-19.


For all these reasons and more, there’s never been a better time to make a deposit in a mission-driven, historical Black bank. Tri-State Bank of Memphis offers both online and mobile banking options, so anyone looking for their deposits to make a difference in Memphis’ Black communities can invest in this Better Banking Option. Check out their website to learn more or move your money today, or check out more great banks and credit unions in the Memphis area.