NU Online News Service, May 2, 11:35 a.m. – The California Department of Insurance has posted a 12-page report about “slavery era” insurance policies on its Web site, at http://www.insurance.ca.gov/SEIR/main.htm
The department has also posted the names of hundreds of African-American slaves that were covered by U.S. slave policies issued before 1866. One file lists the slaves alphabetized by the first names of the slaves, and a second file lists the slaves alphabetized by the surnames of the owners.
The California department compiled the report because the California Legislature passed a bill in 2000 that established slavery-era reporting requirements for all insurers licensed to do business in California, including licensed California subsidiaries of international corporations.
The requirements dealt with information about policies that protected slaveholders against the loss of slaves.
The bill, S.B. 2199, declared that “the people of California are entitled to significant historical information of this nature.”
The California department says it believes 1,357 carriers are subject to the reporting requirements, and that 92% have complied.
Most carriers told the department they had been incorporated after the end of the slavery period and had nothing to report.
Some companies said they had been in business during the slavery era but could find no records from that time.
The insurers that have submitted substantive responses include ACE USA, Philadelphia; Aetna Inc., Hartford; American International Group Inc., New York; Manhattan Life Insurance Company, New York; New York Life Insurance Company, New York; Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, Philadelphia; Providence Washington Insurance Companies, Providence, R.I.; and Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group P.L.C., London.
? ACE, a successor company to Aetna Fire, found a copy of a slave policy written in Mississippi in 1855 by Aetna Life, after Aetna Fire separated from Aetna Life. The policy covered a laborer named Peter.
? Aetna found seven policies that covered a total of 16 lives and a ledger book that gave some more names. For the most part, it found that it had no record of the surnames of the insured slaves.
? AIG could not find any records about slave policies its own subsidiaries had issue, but it found a magazine article that contained a replica of a $550 policy issued to a slaveholder for a slave named Charles. The policy was issued by U.S. Life Insurance Company, New York, an AIG subsidiary licensed to do business in California.
? Manhattan Life found a copy of a 1961 speech stating that it had issued an 1854 group slave life policy providing up to $84,000 in coverage for a cargo of 720 “Chinese coolies”
? New York Life says it found records for a predecessor company, Nautilus Insurance Company, that sold slaveholder life policies from 1845 to 1848. The company located 339 slaveholder life policies, mostly with a death benefit of less than $500 per life covered.
? Penn Mutual says that it wrote no slaveholder life policies, but that it found vague written information about two slaveholder life policies written by other companies.
? Providence Washington says it might have insured slaves before 1799, but that its subscribers voted in 1799 to prohibit the company from selling slaveholder life insurance.
? Royal & Sun says a predecessor company, London Assurance, might have provided slave trader policies in the early 1700s. Conventional marine policies written during the era required that the purchasers of coverage had to warrant that they would take on all losses and damages arising from “death and insurrection of Negroes.”
In the United Kingdom, Parliament banned slave traders that killed slaves or threw them overboard from collecting on slaveholder life insurance policies, Royal & Sun says.
In 1806 and 1811, Parliament passed acts abolishing the slave trade that also prohibited the insurance of slaves and slave ships, Royal & Sun says.