History: The Charleston Co-op That Transformed the South

Being an avid history buff, I am continually inspired by the many ways in which the cooperative movement in America has enhanced the quality of life for so many. Whether you are talking about farmers pooling money to provide affordable credit, raising funds to deliver electricity to the rural South, or marshaling resources to open a member-owned grocery, the story of each cooperative is the story of collective effort in order to provide to the community what the free market is failing to deliver.

In the case of the now-defunct Progressive Club on John’s Island, residents pooled their resources and efforts and ended up changing the world. The co-op, located outside Charleston, became a hub of education for black citizens who wanted to learn how to pass the state’s literacy test in order to be able to vote. Continue reading

History: The Birth of Cooperative Finance in the South


Courtesy: Open Durham.

In January 1916, exactly 100 years ago, about two dozen farmers chipped in a combined $101 to create and open the Lowe’s Grove Credit Union. Located along a dusty crossroads in what was at that time a rural part of southern Durham County in North Carolina, the credit union marked a sea change in the way farmers and hard-working people in the South would receive credit. Continue reading