Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Susan D. Greenbaum, Ph.D.

Keywords

Black, Entrepreneurship, Preservation, Museum, Herndon, Class, Segregation, Identity

Abstract

The dissertation research is an examination of the social and cultural dynamics of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company (ALIC) in Atlanta, GA. During the Jim Crow era (and post Jim Crow era), the ALIC provided economic mobility through employment, home loans, life insurance, and community solidarity. The company was one of the largest and most successful African-American financial institution in the country during the 20th century. It was founded in 1905 by Alonzo F. Herndon, a prosperous black barber and entrepreneur who rose from enslavement to become by 1927 the wealthiest African American in Atlanta. Renamed as the Atlanta Life Financial Group (ALFG), today the insurance company remains the leading African American stock-owned insurance company in the nation. I examine how Atlanta Life employees conceptualized their relationships within the company (past and present) and the larger African American community of Atlanta, along with the role the institution played as a shared space for producing cultural identities through social interactions. I explore the multiple roles of the company that impacted the community in the past and current roles within the African American community. I also explore what the possible closing of the Herndon Home Museum mean for memories and heritage, and the Herndon family's accomplishments if the home were torn down.

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