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Atlanta Life Insurance Company records

Identifier: aarl98-016

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, 1894-1994 (bulk 1945-1985), and 2000, primarily document the operation of the company, and to a lesser extent, the role it played in Atlanta's African-American community. Through the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, Atlanta Life provided economic services to African-Americans not only through sick, accident and life insurance benefits, but also through opportunities for employment and business training. Known today as the Atlanta Life Financial Group, the company offers primarily financial investment services.

The Atlanta Life Insurance Company records are divided into six series and is comprised of architectural drawings, calendars, certificates, contracts, correspondence, journals, ledgers, news clippings, publications, receipts, registers, reports, photographs, scrapbooks, specimen forms, and statements. The operation of the company and its ties to the community are well documented through officers' files, financial records, insurance policies and claims, printed material, and publications.


  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1945-1985
  • Bulk, 1945-1985 1894-1994 2000 1945-1985


Restrictions on access

Restrictions apply as indicated.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

In 1905, Alonzo Franklin Herndon, a slave-born barber, founded what would become the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. For $140 he purchased a small self-help association known as the Atlanta Benevolent and Protective Association, which had been organized the year before by the Reverend Peter Bryant of Wheat Street Baptist Church. Subsequently acquiring two other companies, the Royal Mutual Insurance Company and the National Laborers' Protective Union, Herndon then reorganized his acquisitions as the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association. Atlanta Mutual began operations that year on September 21. Within three months of operation, the company covered Georgia from Bainbridge to Rome, serving more than six thousand policyholders. By 1915, Atlanta Mutual had become the largest Black industrial insurance company in the lower South. In September 1922, Atlanta Mutual amended its charter, increasing its capital stock to $100,000, becoming Georgia's second Black legal reserve company, and renaming itself Atlanta Life Insurance Company. As a legal reserve company with the capability of selling all classes of insurance, Herndon's enterprise had reached its greatest milestone. By the end of 1924, the company had expanded operations to six additional states: Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. By the time Norris Herndon, son of the founder assumed presidency of the company at his father's death on July 21, 1927, the company's assets had increased nearly one million dollars. The period of retrenchment forced upon the company by the Depression was followed, however, by the phenomenal economic growth generated by World War II. By the end of the 1940s, Atlanta Life's capitalization had doubled and the company had expanded into Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. As one of the largest Black financial institutions in the nation, Atlanta Life offered the African American community not only low cost insurance, but also a significant career alternative to teaching and the ministry. As one of the largest Black businesses in the South during the Jim Crow era, Atlanta Life assumed a leadership role in home mortgages, civil rights, and other areas of community development. The social and political changes triggered by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the economic advances of many Blacks in the 1960s and 1970s undermined what had been a captive market for Black insurance companies. Of the more than seventy-five African American insurance companies in operation in 1950, less than twenty remain in business today.

In 1973, Norris Herndon relinquished leadership of the company to Jesse Hill, Jr., under whose direction Atlanta Life continued to acquire smaller companies and to increase its assets, insurance in force, and total income. Confronting a more competitive market, however, in the later decades of the twentieth century, the company divested itself of its home insurance business in 2002, reorganized as a comprehensive financial services company, and was renamed Atlanta Life Financial Group.


20.0 Linear feet

215.5 linear ft. and 196 volumes




Records of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company from 1894-1994, 2000 which primarily document the operation of the company, and to a lesser extent, the role it played in Atlanta's African-American community. The record include officer's files; financial records; insurance policies and claims; Atlanta Life publications and printed material; non Atlanta Life publications and printed material; and architectural drawings, calendars, certificates and diplomas.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series:
  1. I. Officers' files
  2. II. Financial records
  3. III. Insurance policies and claims
  4. IV. Atlanta Life publications and printed material
  5. V. Non Atlanta Life publications and printed material
  6. VI. Architectural drawings, calendars, certificates and diplomas


Gift, Atlanta Life Financial Group.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Atlanta Life Insurance Company photograph collection and Herndon family papers, Herndon Home, Atlanta, Ga.


Processed by Lamonica Sanford, Wesley Chenault, Deborah McGuire, Joe Renouard, and Yinka Winfrey, 2002-2004; Brenda Petty-Moore, Tashiana Scott-Cochran, and Alana White, 2004-2005 .
A Register of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company Records aarl98-016 aarl98-016
April 26, 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303