The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site preserves the home, belongings, and legacy of pioneering civil rights activist, Maggie Lena Walker. Born to a former slave in the capital of the Confederacy during the final year of the Civil War, Maggie Walker rose to notoriety during the height of the Jim Crow era. From her headquarters in Richmond, Walker commanded an African American fraternal organization called the Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL). In her capacity as Right Worthy Grand Secretary, Maggie Walker not only built the ranks of the IOSL to over 100,000 members in 24 states, but she used her organization as an engine of economic uplift, race pride, and gender advancement. She ran a bustling headquarters office, launched a newspaper, opened a department store, and in 1903, established the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank making Walker the nation’s first African American female bank president. In addition to her fraternal and business responsibilities, Maggie Walker lent her leadership to a growing number of local and national civil rights activist groups. She spent her life campaigning to improve the lives of African American men, women, and children.
The Italianate town home where Walker lived with her large family from 1905 until her death in 1934 became a national historic site in 1978. It has been maintained by the National Park Service as a fully furnished house museum since 1985. The museum’s collections are impressively comprehensive, the bulk of which was donated directly from Walker’s descendants in 1979. These include personal items, furnishings, and art work, as well as the extremely significant Maggie Walker Family Papers. These archives contain rare photographs along with Walker’s speeches, correspondence, diaries, and business papers.
The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site’s collection also includes archives and artifacts donated since the museum first opened. Chief among these items are the business papers, ephemera, and office equipment from Walker’s former headquarters, the St. Luke Hall.
The variety of artifacts in the museum’s collections – from common household wares to one of a kind personal items – reveal the compelling story of a woman who rose from humble origins to a prominent seat at the table for social change.
Maggie L. Walker Virtual Museum Exhibit