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What I’m Reading To-day: CA Spencer (1985) – Black Benevolent Societies and the Development of Black Insurance Companies in Nineteenth Century Alabama – Phylon

“In other states, the black industrial insurance societies usually developed out of the black non-secret fraternal benefit societies. In Alabama, however, the insurance societies tended to develop out of the black benevolent societies” (259). Spencer argues that the evolution of black benevolent societies into professionalized insurance companies employing “actuarial principles and businesslike methods” was an organic development near the turn of the century, due to the financial instability of the benevolent societues (252). They specifically suggest that low educational levels in the newly-emancipated black population and the religious, non-commercial roots of the societies as a barrier to sustainability. But on the other hand Spencer notes how from the 1880s until the near complete success of the Alabama Insurance Commission by the 1950s, Alabama state laws attempted to prohibit Rising Star Societies’ insurance functions and increasingly subjected mutuals to close regulation and limitations on the schemes they could adopt for paying out benefits and financing operations (257-258).

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