Photo credits: Alex Israel
NC Mutual (originally the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association and later North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company) is an American life insurance company located in downtown Durham, North Carolina.
It is one of the most influential African-American businesses in the history of the United States. Founded on October 20, 1898, by J.C. Merrick and other black social leaders, the company’ss business increased from less than a thousand dollars in income in 1899 to a quarter of a million dollars in 1910.
The firm specialized in “industrial insurance,” which was basically burial insurance. The company hired salesmen whose main job was to collect small payments (of about 10 cents) to cover the insured person for the next week.
If the person died while insured, the company immediately paid benefits of about 100 dollars. This covered the cost of a suitable funeral, which was a high prestige item in the black community.
It began operations in the new tobacco manufacturing city of Durham, North Carolina, and moved north into Virginia and Maryland. It then moved to major northern black urban centers, as well as the rest of the urban South.
In fact, the company came to be known as the world’s largest African American business in only its first few years and is claimed by its home city of Durham as an important landmark.
In the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s, Durham was known as “The Black Wall Street of America” because of the progress that African Americans were making within the town.
Merrick and the company’s other founders were influential men in Durham’s ripe history. North Carolina Mutual and its prosperity brought many good things to Durham’s black community.
Its founders and organizers were important contributors to social and economic progress in the city, particularly in its African American community.