William & Mary students make historical find in Richmond

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Without so much as a map or an "X" to mark the spot, a group of William & Mary students recently uncovered some historical "treasure" that is expected to shed new light on the lives of early 20th-century African-Americans, including Maggie L. Walker, the first woman to found a bank in the United States and a black woman who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of other black women.

The students were exploring the attic of a building in Richmond when they came across piles of 1920s and 30s documents from the businesses owned by the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization that was dedicated to helping improve the lives of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. The documents include letters from Walker, insurance papers and rare copies of the organization's newspaper, doubling the number known to exist.

"So when you have these all together, it gives you a fabulous film over time of how people were living and dying in this area," said Heather Huyck, an adjunct associate professor at William & Mary. "It's a really fascinating treasure for historians and for the general public. It will help us better understand all American history."

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