W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois.

Economic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t online

. (page 12 of 22)
Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 12 of 22)
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*Atlanta University Publication, No. 6, pp. 91-92.
fBureau of Labor, No. 48, p. 1041.

Beneficial and Insurance Societies 93

1,400 members had been buried, over $45,000 having been given in funeral ex
penses ; $125,000 had been given as sick dues ; $27,000 had been paid widows by
some thirty of the societies; over $10,700 had been given towards house rent;
and over $11,300 had been paid for incidental expenses. Yet there had been
paid back to the members of many of the societies, from unexpended balances,
as dividends, a total of over $40,000; and there remained in the banks, to the
credit of the societies, over $21,400, and in the treasurers hands a cash balance
amounting to some $1,400. Five had small sums invested besides, and one the
goodly sum of $5,642. The total amount of money handled by all had been
nearly $290,000.

These societies vary somewhat in details. The usual fees from members are
50 cents a month ; the usual benefits are $4 a week for a number of weeks, and
then reduced sums, in sickness, and $4,000 for death benefit. Some pay as long
as sickness lasts. Some give widow s dues according to need. One, for exam
ple, the Friendly Beneficial Society, organized chiefly by the members of a
Baptist church, some fifteen years ago, with the usual fees and benefits, carries
a standing fund of about $1,000, and the yearly fees of the members have paid
the current expenses of from $300 to $500, and has usually allowed an annual
dividend of $5 to each.

The Colored Barbers Society, over fifty years old, gives $80 at the death of a
member. Three societies, originally very large, have been gotten up in the
last twenty years, by one colored woman, whose name one of them bears.

A few of these beneficial societies have disbanded ; a few have changed to
secret societies. Very few of them have been badly managed, although unin
corporated and without any public oversight, and everybody seems to speak
well of them and of their w r ork.

Secret societies among the colored people are now very numerous. Many
important ones date back to before the war. The colored Masons and Inde
pendent Order of Odd Fellows are entirely independent of the whites in Balti
more, the colored men having been obliged from the state of public feeling in
the United States in the old days to get a charter from the white brethren in
England. In 1884 there were nearly 500 colored Masons in Baltimore; now
there are probably 700. Of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, fifty lodges
of the seventy-seven working ones, giving a membership of over 2,300. The
fifty lodges had, during the past two years, aided their sick, buried eighty-three
brothers and relieved seventy-seven widows and orphans, at a total expendi
ture of over $13,000. The order held real estate worth $18,500 and had over
$10,000 in cash.

Of the secret societies in Baltimore, the most influential are the Samaritans,
the Nazarites, the Galilean Fishermen and the Wise Men. The first two were
instituted some years before the war. The first has spread from Baltimore, dur
ing the forty years of its existence, to a number of states ; but a third of all the
lodges and nearly a third of all the members are in Maryland (1890). About
one-half of the order are women, Daughters of Samaria, and they meet by
themselves in their own lodges. There are now in Maryland fifty-eight lodges,
with a membership of 1,925.

The order of Galilean Fishermen, of men and women together, was begun in
Baltimore in 1856, by a handful of earnest workers ; it was legally incorporated
in 1869. The order has become influential. It is said to number over 5,000 in

The order of the Seven Wise Men is a more recent order. There are many
more of the same secret, beneficial nature, but these are the largest.


Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

In 1885 was incorporated the Colored Mutual Benefit Association, the only
one in the state, entirely managed by colored men, with a colored doctor and
a prominent colored lawyer for counsel. It is endorsed by all the clergymen,
has grown rapidly and proven itself worthy of the support of the people. In
these first few years, some $10,000 have been paid out in benefits.!

Beneficial Societies of Petersburg. Va. (1898) *
(Not including secret orders.)



No. of

per year


Sick and




Young Men s
{Sisters of Friendship, etc. .
Union Working Olub
Sisters of Charity





$ 7 00
8 00
3 00
3 00
3 00

$ 275 00
68 55
45 00
51 00
135 00

$ 150 00
43 78
23 00
30 00

9 175 00
i28 26



1 1

Beneficial Association
Daughters of Bethlehem. .
Loving Sisters
Ladies Working Club
St. Mark





f25c. 5 20
+12c. 300
+25C. 8 00
H2C . 3 00
+12c. 3 00
il2c 3 00

1,005 64
129 48
22 50
95 11
84 00
68 00

806 46
110 04
30 50
52 65
32 00
27 00

440 00

"62 66

214 09
150 00
100 00


Daughters of Zion
Young Sisters of Charity. .
Humble Christ ian
Sisters of David
Sisters of Rebeccah




-I-12C. 3 00
f!2c. 3 00
J-12C. 8 00
8 00
3 00

66 00
90 00
68 00
90 00
120 00

40 00
30 00
35 50
60 00
85 00

36 00
100 00
75 00
130 00
175 00


Petersburg Beneficial
First Baptist Church Ass n.
Young Men s
Oak Street Church Society.
Endeavor, etc



fl2%c. 3 00
f50c. 5 20
+25C. 300
1 20
3 00

85 00
182 00
60 00
211 00
42 60
120 00

11 00
158 00
40 00
202 25
112 68
96 00

99 58
118 00
80 00
100 00
50 00
43 00



$3,118 88

$2,177 81

$2,275 87

Beneficial Societies of Atlanta, Ga. (1898)
(Not including secret orders.)



No. of



Helping Hand, First Con
gregational Church



$ 120

Benefits paid in 5 years, $255; be
nevolence, $25.

Benefits paid in 5 years, $870; dona

Rising Star, Wheat Street

tions, etc., $50; owns cemetery lot

Baptist Church




for its poorer members.

Daughters of Bethel, Beth

Donations in 5 years, $126; bene

el Church




fits in 5 years, $580.

Ladies Court of Calanthe .




Benefits 8590 since 1891.

Daughters of Friendship,

Union No. 1, Friendship

Benefits 5 years, $430; donates much

Baptist Church




to the church.

Fort Street Benevolent




Benefits 1 year, $190.

Daughters of Plenty




Benefits in 4 years, $200; secession

from Daughters of Bethel.

Pilgrims Progress, Park

Street Church




Benefits in 5 years, $600.

Sisters of Love, Wheat St.

Baptist Church




Has $600 In bank.

Nine organizations



$ Notes on the Progress of the Colored People of Maryland Since the War. 1890,
Jeffrey R. Brackett, Ph. I).

* Atlanta University Publication, No, 8. J Organized before the war.

f Assessment upon each member in case any member dies.

Beneficial and Insurance Societies 95

Warsaw, Qa. (1908)

The history of these societies is interesting. The Christian Progress is the
oldest of them. It was organized soon after the close of the war by a number
of Christian people who banded themselves together for mutual help. The
society has twenty-five members and the monthly dues per person are 25 cents.
The sick benefit is 50 cents per week. The society pays one-half of the doctor s
bill. The death benefit is $27. Any person of good moral character may now
become a member. The next oldest society dates its organization from recon
struction days, when there was a military company here with a woman s aux
iliary. The company passed out of existence but the auxiliary, under the name
of the Ladies Branch, has continued to the present time. This society owns
a hall, where its meetings are held. Its membership is fifty and its monthly
dues 25 cents per member. The sick benefit is 50 cents per week and the death
benefit is $25. When a member dies an assessment of 25 cents is levied on the
survivors. The Boyer Quiet Club was organized in 1888 at the suggestion of
an old German named Boyer who, although very poor, attempted to help the
poorer Negroes. The society charges an admission fee of $3. It has about
fifty members, with monthly dues of 25 cents. The sick benefits are 50 cents
per week and one-half the cost of the doctor s first visit. The society pays all
the funeral expenses. The Earnest Workers has been organized five years.
It has forty-five members with the usual monthly dues. The sick benefits are
50 cents per week and the cost of the physician s first visit. The death bene
fits are $20 and one-half of the funeral expenses ; it reported $100 in the treasury.
The E. K. Love Benevolent Society, with headquarters in Savannah, is char
tered, the Warsaw branch having sixty members. This society has a twofold
purpose : to aid the sick and bury the dead, and to assist in supporting the
Central City College at Macon,Ga., an institution controlled and supported by
colored Baptists of the state. Each member of the society is taxed 60 cents a
year for the support of the college. For local purposes the members are taxed
25 cents per month. The sick benefit is $1 per week. When a member dies $30
is paid on the funeral expenses and $10 to the nearest relative. Only Christians
are eligible for membership in the society. The Sons and Daughters of Zion
is primarily a children s society. It has twenty-seven members and the
monthly dues are 15 cents per month. The sick benefits are 50 cents per week
and one-half the doctor s bill. The death benefit is $20. It reported $113 in the
treasury. *

Philadelphia, Pa., 1899 (60,000 Negroes)

From early times the precarious economic condition of the free Negroes led
to many mutual aid organizations. They were very simple in form : an initia
tion fee of small amount was required and small regular payments ; in case of
sickness, a weekly stipend was paid, and *n case of death the members were
assessed to pay for the funeral and help the widow. Confined to a few mem
bers, all personally known to each other, such societies were successful from
the beginning. We hear of them in the eighteenth century, and by 1838 there
were 100 such small groups, with 7,448 members, in the city. They paid in
.$18,851, gave $14,172 in benefits, and had $10,023 on hand. Ten years later about
8,000 members belonged to 106 such societies. Seventy-six of these had a total
membership of 5,187. They contributed usually 25 cents to37X cents a mouth ;
the sick received $1.50 to $3.00 per week, and death benefits of $10 to $20 were
allowed. The income of these seventy-six societies was $16,814.23 ; 681 families
were assisted. These societies have since been superceded to some extent by

Work, In Southern Workman, January, 19<>8.

96 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

other organizations; they are still so numerous, however, that it is impracti
cal to catalogue them ; there are probably several hundred of various kinds in
the city.

From general observation and the available figures, it seems fairly certain
that at least 4,000 Negroes belong to secret orders, and that these orders an
nually collect at least $25,000, part of which is paid out in sick and death bene
fits and part invested. The real estate, personal property and funds of these,
orders amount to no less than $125,000. The function of the secret society is
partly social intercourse and partly insurance. They furnish pastime from
the monotony of work, a field for ambition and intrigue, a chance for parade,
and insurance against misfortune. Next to the church they are the most popu
lar organizations among Negroes.

Of the beneficial societies The Quaker .City Association is a sick

and death benefit society, seven years old, which confines its membership to
native Philadelphians. It has 280 members and distributes $1,400 to $1,500
annually. The Sons and Daughters of Delaware is over fifty years old. It
has 106 members and owns $3,000 worth of real estate. The Fraternal Associa
tion was founded in 1861 ; it has 86 members and distributes about $300 a year.
It "was formed for the purpose of relieving the wants and distresses of each
other in the time of affliction and death, and for the furtherance of such
benevolent views and objects as would tend to establish and maintain a per
manent and friendly intercourse among them in their social relations in life."
The Sons of St. Thomas was founded in 1823 and was originally confined to
members of St. Thomas Church. It was formerly a large organization, but
now has 80 members, and paid out in 1896, $416 in relief. It has $1,500 invested
in government bonds. In addition to these there is the Sons and Daughters
of Moses, and a large number of other small societies.

There is a rising also a considerable number of insurance societies, differing
from the beneficial in being conducted by directors. The best of these are the
Crucifixion, connected with the Church of the Crucifixion, and the Avery,
connected with Wesley A. M. E. Z. Church ; both have a large membership
and are well conducted. Nearly every church is beginning to organize one or
more such societies, some of which in times past have met disaster by bad
management. The True Reformers of Virginia, the most remarkable Negro
beneficial organizationyet started,has several branches here. Beside these there
are numberless minor societies, as the Alpha Relief, Knights and Ladies of St.
Paul, the National Co-operative Society, Colored Women s Protective Associa
tion, Loyal Beneficial, etc. Some of these are honest efforts and some are
swindling imitations of the pernicious, white, petty insurance societies.*

New York

The older "African societies" in Philadelphia and Newport have
already been noted. There was one in New York also, organized in
1808 and chartered in 1810:

The organization celebrated its incorporation by marching through the
streets with music and flying colors in spite of a warning to the effect that
" the authorities would be entirely powerless to protect you on the streets, and
you would be torn in pieces by howling mobs."

The society, after its incorporation, exerted a wide influence in the com
munity. It became so large that out of it sprang the Clarkson Society, the
Wilberforce Benevolent Society, the Union Society, and the Woolman Society
of Brooklyn.

* Philadelphia Negro, pp. 221-25.

Beneficial and Insurance Societies 97

At present the real estate in its possession is valued at not less than $40,000.
One of the earliest accounts, covering 1813 and 1814, shows receipts to the
amount of $1,148.17 ; from 1852 to 1855, inclusive, rents of the society s buildings,
dues, etc., $2,628.67 ; in 1891, $3,162.15, and sick dues paid out to the amount of
$390 ; gratuities $286.20 ; for 1892, the receipts from all sources amount to $2,735.64.

The objects of the society were: "To raise a fund to be appropriated ex
clusively toward the support of such of the members of said society as shall
by reason of sickness or infirmity, or either, be incapable of attending to their
usual vocation or employment, and also toward the relief of the widows and
orphans of deceased members."

The society owns two pieces of real estate in the central part of the city, one
rented to twenty colored families, and the other a store and dwelling occupied
by three families.

There are a large number of beneficial and insurance societies in New
York now, as in other cities.


There were in Chatham associations formed, called True Bands. They were
composed of colored people of both sexes, associated for their own improve
ment ; their objects were many : For general interest in each other s welfare ;
to pursue such plans and objects as may be for their mutual advantage; to
improve their schools and induce their race to send their children into the
schools; to break down prejudice; to bring the churches, so far as possible,
into one body, and not let minor differences divide them ; to prevent litigation
by referring all disputes among themselves to a committee; to stop the beg
ging system (going to the United States and raising large sums of money, of
which the fugitives never received the benefit); to raise such funds among
themselves as may be necessary for the poor, the sick and the destitute fugi
tives newly arrived ; to prepare themselves ultimately to bear their due weight
of political power.

The first True Band was organized in Maiden, in September, 1854, consisting
of 600 members. It is represented as having thus far fulfilled its objects ad
mirably. Small monthly payments are made by the members. The receipts
have enabled them to meet all cases of destitution and leave a surplus in the

In all other places where the bands have been organized the same good re
sults have followed. There were in 1856 fourteen True Bands organized in
various sections of Canada West.*

The beneficial societies are thus seen to be universal among colored
people and conducted in all sorts of ways, from the simple form noted
in 3 to the regular insurance society. No accurate estimate of the
income of these societies is possible.

Their history in Philadelphia is instructive on this point: Judging
from the figures here and in other cities, and remembering that the in
surance society is largely replacing the old beneficial society and that
the country districts have fewer societies than the city, it seems, to
hazard a guess, that between a quarter and a half million dollars are
still annually paid to Negro beneficial societies.

As has been said the purely beneficial societies are being absorbed
into larger insurance societies. The first Negro insurance society
appears in Philadelphia:

* Drew: The Refugees.

98 Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans

, The year 1810 witnessed the creation of the African Insurance Company,
iwhich was located at No. 159 (now 529) Lombard street: Joseph Randolph,
president; Cyrus Porter, treasurer; William Coleman, secretary, with a capi
tal stock of $5,000. "The members of this company are all colored persons," as
stated in the directories for 1811 and 1813. In the latter year it was located at
155 Lombard street, which appears to have been the residence of its secretary,
whose profession was given as "teacher." We find 110 traces of it after this
year; some of its policies are yet preserved in the families of the insured.*

r The transition from beneficial to secret and insurance societies is thus
(described in Virginia:

As soon as the colored man became free he formed all kinds of associations
for mutual protection, many of which exist today though in somewhat modi
fied forms. These organizations were founded for the purpose of caring for
the sick and furnishing decent burial at death. No attention was paid to dif
ference of age, and very little to health conditions. The same joining fee was
charged regardless of age, and the same monthly dues paid. The usual
amounts paid for initiation fee in these "Benevolent Societies" was from $2.50
to $5.00. Monthly dues of 50 cents were generally charged.

The amount paid for sick dues w T as regulated by the by-laws of the various
societies and ranged from $1.50 per week to $5.00. Members were taken in on
the recommendation of friends. These organizations were formed by the
hundred in the cities of Virginia, and many of them served a good purpose in
that the people were brought together and friendly intercourse established.
These societies were known by their names and many of them were long and
curious. Regalia of all kinds were worn and the society having the greatest
amount of regalia was the most popular.

From paying no attention to the laws of health and taking in persons with
out medical examination, many of these organizations found themselves
loaded down with large amounts of money due on account of unpaid sick dues
and death benefits. Many of them have gone to the wall and there remains
little to tell that they ever existed

In the early eighties the colored people began to take insurance in white
companies requiring a small weekly payment and giving in return therefor a
death benefit and in some instances sick dues. As the amounts charged were
small and no trouble was attached because of the payments being made to
agents at the homes, the growth of these societies was rapid.

Some of these persons being more inquisitive than others found that the
amounts paid on accounts of colored persons were smaller than the amounts
paid to whites for the same premiums. Deciding at once that this was unjust,
the more enterprising members of the race began to devise ways and means
to break down this discrimination by the establishing of colored insurance
companies and by attaching an insurance feature to societies already organ
ized. The promoters of these various companies had no experience whatever
in insurance, and it never once occurred to them that all successful insurance
is based on some well established mortality table. No investigations were
made in order to find out the relative death rate of the colored and white i
races. In order to secure the business from white companies the common f
attempt was to adopt a rate lower than that charged by the white companies!
and to pay therefor more benefits. The woods are full of the graves of these

*A History of the Insurance Company of North America, (the oldest fire and ma
rine insurance company in America). The Negro society was formed in 171H5. Of.
Philadelphia Negro, p. 28.

Beneficial and Insurance Societies 99

earlier companies which failed for the want of knowledge of business.*

The following is a list of the larger Negro industrial insurance socie
ties now operating:

The United States

People s Mutual Aid Association Little Rock, Ark.

The Royal Mutual Aid Beneficial Association " Wilmington, Del.

National Benefit Insurance Co Jacksonville Fla

Afro-American Industrial Insurance Go Jacksonville Fla.

Union Mutual Aid Association Jacksonville Fla.

Oordele Mutual and Fire Insurance Oo Oordele,Ga.

Atlanta Mutual Insurance Oo Atlanta , Ga.

Union Mutual Insurance Oo Atlanta, Ga.

Savannah Mutual and Fire Insurance Co Savannah, Ga.

The Pilgrim Health Insurance Co Augusta, Ga.

Southern Mutual Insurance Co Augusta, Ga.

Guarantee Relief Association Augusta, Ga!

People s Mutual Aid Association Muskogee, I. T.

United Aid and Benevolent Association Jersey City, N. J.

Benevolent Aid and Relief Association Baltimore, Md.

Mutual Benefit Society Baltimore, Md.

Benevolent Aid and Relief Association Annapolis, Md.

Toilers Mutual Insurance Co Greensboro, N. C.

Progressive Benefit Association Charleston, S. C.

-North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association Durham, N. O.

United States Life Insurance Oo Charleston, 8. C.

Metropolitan Mutual Benefit Association Charleston, 8. C.

American Life and Benefit Insurance Oo Durham, N. C.

The Home Insurance Co Charleston, 8. C.

Piedmont Life Insurance Co Greensboro, N. C.

Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co Durham, N. C.

Toilers Mutual Life Insurance Co Tarboro, N. C.

Keystone Aid Society Philadelphia, Pa.

Northern Aid Society Philadelphia, Pa.

Reliable Aid and Improvement Society Philadelphia, Pa.

Mutual Improvement Society Washington, D. C.

National Benefit Association Washington, D. C.

Hand in Hand Fraternity Washington, D. C.

Guarantee Aid and Relief Society Savannah, Ga.

American Beneficial Insurance Oo Richmond, Va.

"^-Richmond Beneficial Insurance Oo Richmond, Va.

Virginia Beneficial Insurance Oo Norfolk, Va.

Star of Zion Relief and Accident Corporation Boydton, Va.

United Aid Insurance Co Richmond, Va.

Benevolent and Relief Association Guthrie, Okla.

Lincoln Benefit Association Raleigh, N. C.

Pimbas Mutual Aid Society Baltimore, Md.

St. James Beneficial Society Bal timore, Md.

Co-operative Insurance Co Hannibal, Mo.

Union Central Relief Florence, Ala.

Independent Benevolent Order Georgia

Grand United Order of True Reformers Richmond, Va.

Independent Order of St. Luke Richmond, Va.

Home Protective Association

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 12 of 22)