Atlanta Life Insurance Company

Spring 2021

“atlanta life insurance company”

patricia rangel

Sweet Auburn,” was the cornerstone of the Black community in Atlanta between 1900 and 1960. The one-mile stretch housed both a residential area to the east and a business district to the west that were inherently interconnected mentally, socially, spiritually, and economically. The city’s wealthiest Black entrepreneur, Alonzo Herndon, purchased a large block of commercial property on Auburn Avenue, where he located his Atlanta Life Insurance Company, founded in 1905. Born enslaved by his biological father, Herndon and his family inherited poverty upon emancipation. Navigating the racial inequalities of his time, he hustled, saved, sought opportunities, and refined his craft as an industrialist to accumulate his fortune. Upon his death in 1927, his son Norris, took over the insurance business. During the 1950s, Atlanta Life continued to see its mission as more than a capitalistic venture. It supported Dr. Alexa Henderson contests, “the growing protest movement, offering employment to fired teachers, posting bail for jailed students, and providing meeting space and printing and communications facilities to civil rights groups.”

In 1984, these three buildings; the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, the Smith House, and the Rucker’s Building amongst others on Auburn Avenue were designated as part of the “Sweet Auburn Historical District” under the United States National Parks Service. Despite its national recognition and worthiness to be preserved, two of them have been demolished. Atlanta Life is the only one standing, unoccupied, and slowly deteriorating. Its weathered walls bear witness to Black excellence, entrepreneurship, and community service. Its beautiful portraits in the windows, pale in comparison to the impact its staff had on the street and across the country.

In September 2020 three Atlantans, Ambassador Andrew Young, Michael “Killer Mike” Render, and Ryan Glover launched Greenwood, a “Modern Bank for the Culture.” Inspired by the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as the Black Wall Street which recirculated Black wealth all day, every day, until it burned to the ground by a white mob in 1921. Young, Render, and Glover are proof of the modern-day entrepreneurs and activists that could be equally inspired by the street Fortune Magazine in 1956 called, “the richest [Black] street in the world.” The history and structure are there ready to be tapped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *