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Atlanta Life Insurance Company
Guardian of Black Economic Dignity

by Alexa Benson Henderson

Hardcover, 251 pages, 6-1/4" x 9-1/4"
Copyright 1990
University of Alabama Press

From the dustjacket flaps:
The story of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, with its humble beginning as a small mutual aid association, depicts the inspiring efforts of black Americans to build and sustain economic organizations and enterprises. Its study also fits into the mosaic of activities, extending back to the pre-Civil War era, which were aimed at developing an economic base within the black community. These efforts gained new meaning in the post-Reconstruction period as blacks strove to survive in an America that was increasingly characterized by rampant racism and a host of economic and social restrictions based on race. In this environment, a significant number of black leaders urged business development and the amassing of wealth among black Americans as the primary means by which the race could end its disadvantage in American society and achieve respect and citizenship.

In Atlanta, shortly after the turn of the century, Alonzo Franklin Herndon, a former slave, joined a long line of promoters of black enterprise by creating the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. More than three-quarters of a century later, it is an important enterprise that is the nation's largest black-controlled shareholder insurance company. With more than $108.7 million in assets, the firm is today a significant example of the valiant efforts of black Americans to achieve economic dignity in America.

The Atlanta Life story tells a great deal about the past achievements of black insurance firms. In its study one observes broadly the historical strengths and weaknesses and sees clearly the important correlations between periods of boom and depression on the levels of growth experienced by these enterprises. The book also reflects the impact of racism and socioeconomic exclusion on the survival of black firms.

From its beginning in 1905, Atlanta Life Insurance Company surmounted many obstacles, both economic and racial, to provide an important economic service to black Americans. In addition to easing the financial burdens associated with illnesses and deaths, the company also provided employment opportunities in areas where the company operated. In spurts of expansion fever, the company grew until its territory of operations included twelve states in the South and Midwest. With diligent leadership possessing firm faith in the possibilities of black business enterprise, Atlanta Life demonstrated the potent show predicted by curly black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and John Hope.

In this book, Henderson focuses on the historic roots of Atlanta Life, its economic growth and development as a black-owned institution, and its social and economic involvement with the problems and progress of black America. Depicting circumstances that varied from race riots and hostility to investigations by state regulatory boards to depression to efforts at acquiring special Congressional legislation protecting stock ownership, Henderson relates the important details of the Atlanta Life story and its identity with the society it served.

About the author
Alexa Benson Henderson is Professor of History and Chair of the Division of General Education at Clark Atlanta University.

Table of Contents
List of Tables
1. A Heritage of Mutual Aid
2. Alonzo Herndon: Barber and Businessman
3. Faith in the Enterprise
4. A Matter of Survival
5. An Emphasis on Expansion
6. A Great Racial Burden
7. The Legacy of Leadership
8. Depression and War Years
9. An Anxious New Era
10. Civil Rights and Social Responsibility
11. Challenges of a New Era
Selected Bibliography

Book condition:
This is a new "remainder" book. A remainder is a book that may have been unsold by the publisher, or it may have been an "unsold" return from a bookstore. It may have minor shelf wear on the cover, or other mild imperfection. We do not ship books with major damage. No remainder mark.

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