Asa and Elna Spaulding papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983
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- Spaulding, Asa T. (Asa Timothy), 1902-1990 and Spaulding, Elna B. (Elna Bridgeforth)
- Asa T. Spaulding was an insurance executive in Durham, N.C. and an activist in civil rights, education, employment, and other work related to minorities' rights. He held various positions in the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company for almost thirty-five years, beginning as its actuary in 1933 and serving as its fifth president from 1958 through 1967. Elna Bridgeforth Spaulding was an activist in civil rights for minorities and women and involved in local politics in Durham, N.C, serving as a Durham County Commissioner for five terms, from 1974 through 1984. The Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983, document an African American family's lifelong involvement in the business, political, educational, religious, and social life of Durham, N.C. The collection consists of correspondence, writings and speeches, printed materials, clippings, photographs, audiovisual items, and memorabilia that reflect the Spauldings' work with the following organizations and groups: North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company; Mechanics and Farmers Bank; Durham County Board of Commissioners; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Urban League; Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc.; North Carolina Central and Shaw universities; White Rock Baptist Church (Durham, N.C.); and the Lincoln Community Health Center. The collection is divided into two subgroups. The Asa Spaulding Subgroup is arranged in nine series: Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Organizations, North Carolina Mutual Files, Insurance Files, Subject Files, Photographic Materials, and Audiovisual Materials. The Elna Spaulding Subgroup is arranged in six series: Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Organizations, Subject Files, Photographic Materials, and Audiovisual Materials.
144 Linear Feet
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and Content:
The Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983, document an African American family's lifelong involvement in the business, political, educational, religious, and social life of Durham, N.C. The Spauldings were active in a broad range of political bodies, businesses, civic groups, and activist organizations, including among many others theDurham County Board of Commissioners and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and were among the co-founders of Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Their long record of accomplishment in the areas of employment, political representation, civil rights, race relations, and women's rights is documented by the collection's rich variety ofcorrespondence, writings and speeches, printed materials, clippings,photographs, audiovisual items, and memorabilia. The collection is divided into two subgroups. The Asa Spaulding Subgroup is arranged in nine series: Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Organizations, North Carolina Mutual Files, Insurance Files, Subject Files, Photographic Materials, and Audiovisual Materials. The Elna Spaulding Subgroup is arranged in six series: Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Organizations, Subject Files, Photographic Materials, and Audiovisual Materials. Some of these materials have been digitized and are available online.
The Asa Spaulding Subgroup, 1909-1984 and undated, documents Mr. Spaulding's career as an insurance executive and his lifelong activism in civil rights, education, employment, and other work related to minorities' rights. While serving in various capacities in Durham's North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Spaulding was also instrumental in the development of other local businesses such as the Mechanics and Farmers Bank as well as being active in a number of life insurance organizations at the national level, including the National Insurance Association and the Life Insurance Association of America. As his business career developed, culminating in his becoming the Mutual's fifth president in 1958, his national and international reputation also grew, especially in the areas of civil rights and race relations. This led to his serving on a number of government commissions and task forces and in various organizations concerned with urban affairs. Among the most important of these were the American delegation to a UNESCO conference in India and the National Urban League. Spaulding also maintained lifelong ties to the academic and religious communities. At various times he served on the boards of a number of universities, including North Carolina Central andShaw; in addition he had a long involvement with the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He was active all his adult life not only in his local church, White Rock Baptist Church, but also in national groups such as the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
The Correspondence Series is characterized not by its depth of material for any one correspondent but rather its reflection of the breadth of Spaulding's contacts in business, government, politics, and education. Among the many contacts represented here are North Carolina governors, United States senators and congressmen, and all American presidents from the 1940s through the 1970s. The Writings and Speeches Series contains Spaulding's articles, opinion columns, press releases, speeches, and other works on a wide variety of topics, including civil rights, economics, education, insurance, principles of business management,race relations, and his travels abroad as a representative of the United States and UNESCO. There are also many of his introductions of speakers at public events and tributes to friends and political figures. A highlight of this series is the wealth of material about Spaulding's own life and career. Most of this was gathered by him for a planned though unpublishedautobiography; it consists of correspondence, drafts, interviews, printed material, and a variety of anecdotes and personal stories,
The Organizations Series is by far the largest series in the subgroup. It documents how far and wide Spaulding's interests and activities ranged beyond his career in the insurance industry, particularly his support of and agitation for civil rights and related issues and organizations. Series highlights include material about the following topics and organizations: his tenure on the board of trustees for theLegal Defense Committee of the NAACP; his work as a member of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; his work with the Women and Minority Directors Seminar (an attempt in the early 1970s to encourage organizations and businesses to hire more minorities at the management level); his activities as an American representative to a UNESCO delegation in the 1950s; and his 1971 mayoral election campaign in Durham. Also to be found here is a collection of materials about White Rock Baptist Church, of which Spaulding was a long time member and director. White Rock Baptist Church was prominent in civil rights activities in North Carolina and hosted many guest speakers.
Spaulding's career in the insurance industry is documented by two series, the North Carolina Mutual Files and the Insurance Files. Spaulding was the actuary for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (Durham, N.C.), in the 1930s, its actuary and vice-president in the 1940s, and its fifth president from 1956-1967. Thus the series documents not only Spaulding's career, but the development of the company over several decades into the largest African American-owned business in the world. A particular focus of this series is the dedication of the company's new building in downtown Durham in 1966, probably the major event of Spaulding's tenure as president. TheInsurance Files series reflects his activities in the industry beyond his positions at North Carolina Mutual. A particularly rich group of the papers documents his work with theNational Insurance Association (NIA), of which Spaulding was president in the 1940s. Formerly known as the National Negro Insurance Association, the NIA was an organization of officers of black-owned American insurance companies.
Several smaller series broaden the picture of Spaulding's life and career. The Subject Files contain general biographical data as well as more information about his travels and his campaigns for Durham County Commissioner and Mayor of Durham in the late 1960s and early 1970s. ThePhotographic Materials Seriesalso documents his travels as well as some of the history of North Carolina Mutual, especially the dedication of the new home office building in 1966. The subject matter of theAudiovisual Materials Series is largely biographical or autobiographical. In addition to recordings of some of Spaulding's speeches and public interviews, this series also contains several recordings he made that are apparently materials he was gathering for his planned autobiography.
The Elna Spaulding Subgroup, 1909-1997 and undated, documents Mrs. Spaulding's activism for civil rights for minorities and women and her career in local politics. Although the material spans almost sixty years, the bulk of it is from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. The Correspondence Series contains both personal and professional letters that give an indication of her involvement in local and state politics, advocacy for various groups including women, African Americans, children, and the elderly. Some of the organizations that appear in this series also appear in the Organizations Series.Although some correspondence may appear in the latter series, in general this material is not addressed to or from Mrs. Spaulding individually, but rather is documentation of each organization's work, including meeting agendas and minutes, financial reports, annual reports, and a wide range of planned activities. The papers of the Durham County Board of Commissioners provide the most detailed picture of Mrs. Spaulding's political activity. Her other work has focused on attempts to break down barriers between various groups and their rights. Involvement in these issues, including women's employment, women's rights, and public health, is highlighted by the material fromWomen-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and its Causes, of which she was the founder--in 1968--and first president, as well as such organizations as the Lincoln Community Health Center. The Subject Filesround out the picture of her career, particularly in documenting her campaigns for public office in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Biographical / Historical:
Asa Spaulding Chronology Date Event 1902 July 22 Born in Columbus County, N.C., to Armstead Spaulding and Annabelle Lowery Spaulding 1918-1923 National Training School, Durham 1924 Howard University 1930 B.S. in Accounting, Magna Cum Laude, New York University, School of Commerce, Accounts & Finance 1932 M.A. in Mathematics & Actuarial Science, University of Michigan 1933 June 24 Children, Asa Jr., Patricia Ann, Aaron Lowery, Kenneth Bridgeforth Married to Elna Bridgeforth of Athens, Alabama 1933 Actuary, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company 1934 Appointed first actuary for the National Negro Life Insurance Association 1941-1943 President, National Negro Life Insurance Association 1948-1958 Vice-President, Actuary, and Controller, North Carolina Mutual 1956 Jan. 1-8 Member, United States Delegation to the Inaugural Ceremonies of President William V. S. Tubman of Liberia 1956 Nov. 5-Dec. 5 Presidential appointee, United States Delegation UNESCO General Conference, New Delhi, India 1956 Worldwide trip (with Elna) 1958 L.L.D. (Honorary), Shaw University 1959-1962 Vice-Chairman, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, N.C. Advisory committee 1959-1967 President, North Carolina Mutual 1960 L.L.D. (Honorary), North Carolina College at Durham 1961 Doctor of Business Administration (Honorary), Morgan State College 1967 University of North Carolina (Honorary Degree) 1968 Formed Asa T. Spaulding Consulting and Advisory Service 1968-1972 County Commissioner, Durham County, N.C. (two terms) 1969 Duke University (Honorary Degree) 1971-1975 Chairman, Howard University Board of Trustees 1972 St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Honorary Degree) 1976 Howard University (Honorary Degree) 1990 Died Elna Spaulding Chronology Date Event 1909 Jan. 23 Born at Tuskeegee Institute, Tuskeegee, Ala., to George Ruffin and Datie Miller Bridgeforth 1926 Graduated, Trinity High School, Athens, Ala. 1930 Mus. B. Degree, Talladega College, Talladega, Ala. 1930-1931 Employed, Durham City Schools 1931-1933 Employed, Winston-Salem, N.C., Teachers College 1933 June 24 Children, Asa T. Jr., Patricia Ann, Aaron Lowery, Kenneth Bridgeforth Married Asa T. Spaulding 1956 Nov. 5-Dec. 5 Accompanied Mr. Spaulding to UNESCO General Conference in New Delhi, India with United States Delegation 1967 Tour of Germany as guest of Republic of West Germany to observe progress made through Marshall Plan aid 1968-1974 Founder and President of Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. 1974-1984 County Commissioner, Durham County, N.C. (five terms) 1992 Duke University (honorary doctorate) 2007 Jan. 7 Died, Durham, N.C.
- Acquisition Information:
- The Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 1971-1996.
- Processing information:
Processed by Michael Shumate, Melissa Delbridge, Amy Carroll, Shayla Nunnally, Katie Pettiss, Donnel Baird, and Brad Siegele, July 2003
Encoded by Michael Shumate and Joshua Kaiser
Completed April 2005
Updated by Jessica Carew, Februrary 2012
Updated to include digital content by Noah Huffman, April 2013
Accessions 3/5/1971, 4/2/1984, and 1996-061 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
- Physical Location:
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Related Material:
The following collections held by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library may contain related material:
- Separated Material:
The following books were removed from the collection and cataloged separately.
- Haley, Alex,Roots: The Saga of American Family, New York: Dell,1976.Inscribed by the author to Asa Spaulding.
- Kennedy, William J., Jr.,The North Carolina Mutual Story: A Symbol of Progress 1898-1970,Durham, N.C.: North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company,1970
- Paths Toward Freedom: a Biographical history of Blacks and Indians in North Carolina by Blacks and Indians, Raleigh, N.C.: Center for Urban Affairs, North Carolina State University,1976. Entries on Asa and C.C. Spaulding, pp. 188-189.
- Weare, Walter B.,Black Business in the New South: A Social History of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press,1973.
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
Life insurance -- United States -- History -- 20th century
Women -- Employment -- United States
African American business enterprises -- North Carolina -- History -- 20th century
African American business enterprises -- Management
African American women -- North Carolina -- Durham -- Political activity -- History -- 20th century
Political campaigns -- North Carolina
Insurance companies, American -- North Carolina
Civil rights -- North Carolina
African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century
African American executives -- Autobiograhy
African American churches -- North Carolina -- History
Clippings (information artifacts)
Unesco -- India
White Rock Baptist Church (Durham, N.C.)
Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter (Durham, N.C.)
Lincoln Community Health Center (Durham, N.C.)
Life Insurance Association of America
Durham County (N.C.). Board of Commissioners
Omega Psi Phi
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company -- History -- Sources
North Carolina Central University
National Urban League
National Insurance Association (U.S.)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Mechanics and Farmers Bank -- North Carolina -- Durham
Spaulding, Elna B. (Elna Bridgeforth)
Spaulding, Asa T. (Asa Timothy), 1902-1990
Durham (N.C.) -- Race relations
Durham (N.C.) -- Politics and government
Durham (N.C.) -- History -- 20th century
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- PREFERRED CITATION:
[Identification of item], Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.