Martha Ducharme – MBA, CPCU
February 18, 2021
The First Black Insurance Organizations in the United States
Today we consider insurance to be a product that is there to provide a service, to help care for various property, health, liability, and life insurance needs that could arise during our lifetime. This is not a new concept; this is what insurance was intended to provide at its inception. There is no different need for our fellow Black Americans, the difference is in what was offered to them, or more appropriately not offered.
Known as the first Black owned insurance organization was the Free African Union Society created in Newport, Rhode Island in 1780. These first organizations were known as Mutual Aid Societies that would provide insurance minded products for Black Americans to address the needs of assisting the poor and sick, and to show mainstream white society that blacks could be responsible citizens. Just like anyone else, they wanted to provide for burials, widows, orphans, and other support for the Black community.
This Society went beyond the insurance products to offer opportunity to Black community members by hiring enslaved Blacks as apprentices to enable them to eventually buy their own freedom. In 1824, the Society changed its name to Colored Union Church Society. William H. Robinson shared an account of the records that were kept by the Society, these documents include specific member names and records of their goals for dignity, respect, equal human value, and status.[i]
Robinson, William H., "The Proceedings of the Free African Union Society and the African Benevolent Society: Newport, Rhode Island 1780-1824" (1976). Faculty Publications. 407.
[i] Robinson, William H., "The Proceedings of the Free African Union Society and the African Benevolent Society: Newport, Rhode Island 1780-1824" (1976). Faculty Publications. 407.