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Life Insurance On Slaves Helped Build New York Life Insurance

Henry B. Moore, Library of Congress via Wikipedia

In the modern financial world, Wall Street is king, but that ascent did not happen without exploitation. In particular, African slaves provided capital for some of the nation's most powerful financial institutions.

Nautilus Mutual Life Insurance offered policies on slaves and allowed slave owners to claim funds on their lost property when slaves died. But the financial gain was not only for the slave owner. Nautilus and others used premiums on slave policies to build their wealth and grow their companies. Nautilus is now New York Life Insurance, one of the nation's largest insurers. 
New York Times correspondent Rachel Swarns researched the sale of these policies, including some in eastern North Carolina. She located an ad from The Wilmington Chronicle in 1848.

Host Frank Stasio talked with Swarns about the legacy of life insurance policies on slaves.

The State of California created a disclosure registryto document slaveholders and the slaves who were insured. 

Laura Lee was the managing editor of The State of Things until mid February 2017. Born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, Laura returned to the Old North state in 2013 after several years in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in political science and international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.