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Thu, 02.18.1841

Emma Chappell, Banker, and Economist born

Emma Chappell

 *The birth of Emma Chappell is marked on this date in 1941.  She was a Black economist, sociopolitical activist, and bank administrator.   

Born in Philadelphia, at sixteen, she first became interested in banking when her pastor noted her mathematical abilities and encouraged her to pursue a career in banking.  In 1959 she started as a bank clerk after high school.  Chappell went to night school for five years at Temple University, graduating in 1967. After graduation, Continental Bank placed her in its executive training program, which she finished in 1971, and by 1977 she had become the bank's first African American vice president.

She was the first female vice president of a major bank in all of Pennsylvania. In charge of the Community Business Loan and Development Department for minority loans- and women-owned small businesses, she used her position to assist in developing Philadelphia's black community. During this time, she also organized the Model Cities Business and Commercial Project, now Philadelphia Commercial Development Project, to revitalize commerce in the inner city. Chappell returned to school in 1982 and earned a master's degree from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University.

Throughout her career, Chappell has maintained an interest in sociopolitical movements, serving as chairperson on the Operation PUSH Board and as a founding vice president of the National Rainbow Coalition. In 1984, Chappell took leave from Continental Bank to serve as national treasurer for the Reverend Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign.   In 1987, a group of prominent black Philadelphians approached Chappell about the possibility of starting a Black-controlled bank, slating her as the potential leader. They contributed $600,000 to the venture, and Chappell was left to solicit the remaining capital. The stock market crash of October 1987 stalled her efforts. Undeterred, Chappell sold stock for $10 a share in blocks of fifty shares, raising more than $6 million in the capital. Commanding overwhelming community support from black churches and small investors, the United Bank of Philadelphia opened for business on March 23, 1992, with Chappell as CEO.

In 1999, recognizing its unprecedented growth, the United Bank received the coveted Blue Chip Enterprises Award, sponsored by Mass Mutual and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chappell left in 2000, but the United Bank of Philadelphia remains a force in black banking, reflecting her tireless commitment to community empowerment and advocacy.   Chappell served as the Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project director, a nonprofit corporation that builds bridges between large and small businesses. 

Emma Chappell, the United Bank of Philadelphia founder, passed away on March 19, 2021, at 80 years old.

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