Opened on September 17, 1928 in the Paul Laurence Dunbar apartments (named after the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar), the Dunbar National Bank was the first bank in Harlem to be managed and staffed by African-Americans.
The photograph shows a hard-working Harlem man in his very broken-in muddy rain boots topped with long socks, long wool pants, a ruffled hat and a jacket that has seen better days standing at the “Thrift” window making a deposit at the bank. Notice the reflection of the flash on the left side of the photograph, with the photographers head peeking out right below the bright white flash in the picture.
The Dunbar Bank was funded by John Davison Rockefeller Jr., specifically for the population of Harlem. The bank was housed on the street level of the Dunbar apartments at West 149th and West 150th Streets (between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr,). The president of the Bank was Joseph D. Higgins, 36 years a banker, onetime Federal Reservist, former vice president of the American Exchange-Irving Trust Company.