(b. Aug. 1, 1874, Columbus county, N.C., U.S.–d. Aug. 1, 1952, Durham, N.C.), American business leader who built the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company into the nation’s largest black-owned business by the time of his death, when it was worth about $40 million.
At the age of 20, Spaulding left his father’s farm and moved to Durham, N.C., where in 1898 he completed what was equivalent to a high school education and became the manager of a black-owned grocery store. In 1899 he was hired as a part-time agent by the recently established North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association; the following year he was promoted to full-time general manager, the company’s only full-time position. Spaulding was an early proponent of saturation advertising, inundating local businesses with promotional items bearing his company’s name.
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), founder and principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, organized the National Negro Business League in 1900 to promote “commercial, agricultural,Â educational, and industrial advancement … and the commercial and financial development of the Negro.” Washington believed that blacks should “leave political and civil rights alone” in order to “make a businessman of the Negro.”
Washington was hoping that the League would encourage blacks to start their own businesses, thus proving that they were as capable as whites of economic success. This in turn, Washington reasoned, would eventually lead whites to allow blacks — or at least certain blacks — their right to vote and due process of law. The League’s membership included a number of successful black businessmen (and women) and professionals and a large number of the black middle class “strivers” who hoped to start their own businesses.
Founded by former slave, Alonzo Franklin Herndon, he purchased a small benevolent association for $140 and, with the acquisition and reorganization of two other companies in that year forming the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association. In June 1996, Charles Cornelius began as the fifth president and chief executive officer and carries on the company’s proud legacy.
Today, Atlanta Life has assets of over $200 million and operates in 17 states.