An Ensured Success – Early Insurance Companies, N.O.

The city of New Orleans by 1924, was home to five industrial life insurance companies owned by men of color. These companies offered affordable protection in case of death or illness and provided jobs for countless office clerks, agents, typists, and bookeepers, in addition to providing a steady stream of business to affiliated doctors and druggists. The oldest of the black insurance companies, Unity Industrial Life Insurance Company, was founded in 1907 by Aristide Dejoie, George D. Geddes, William E. Roberson, and other businessmen and leaders of relief associations. The second was the People’s Industrial Life Insurance Company, founded in 1909 by political leader Walter L. Cohen and a number of his friends and associates. In 1920, several members of the Joseph Dejoie family and associated individuals formed the Louisiana Industrial Life Insurance Company. That same year, S. W. Green, Supreme Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, and several of his associates formed the Liberty Industrial Life Insurance Company. The Standard Industrial Life Insurance Company, founded in 1924, was an interest of the C. C. Haydel family.

By 1951, the city had some fifteen different black-owned insurance companies, many of which would survive into the 1970s, and some of which continue to the present day.

Shown above are some members of the Board of Directors and staff of the People’s Industrial Life Insurance Company: (seated left to right)Arnold Dufauchard; Haidel John Christophe, Secretary-Treasurer;Walter Lewis Cohen, Founder and President; Beverly Victor Baranco, Sr., Vice President; Edward Olander Moss, Honorary Vice President; and Dr. George W. Lucas, Medical Director; (standing left to right) George Weeks, [unk?], Victor F. Collins, Peter S. Tibbs, Octave Lilly, Sr., T. J. Johnson, Arthur P. Bedou, John L. Diaz, and Archille Populus.

Photograph Source: Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Commemorative Booklet, People’s Industrial Life Insurance Company.

J.C.L.H.

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