Spaulding, Charles Clinton

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Spaulding, Charles Clinton

August 1, 1874
August 1, 1952

Entrepreneur C. C. Spaulding was born in Columbus County, North Carolina. As a youth he worked on his father's farm and attended the local school until 1894, when he went to live with his uncle, Aaron Moore, the first black physician to practice in Durham, North Carolina. In Durham, after graduating from high school in 1898, Spaulding held a variety of jobs before becoming the manager of a cooperative black grocery store. While there, he also sold life insurance policies for the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association, founded in 1898 by seven black men, including his uncle.

When the Mutual floundered in 1900 and most of the founders resigned their positions, Moore became secretary, and John Merrick, who served as president, hired Spaulding as the general manager. The three men then constituted the board of directors. With the death of Merrick in 1919 and the reorganization of the company as the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Spaulding became secretary-treasurer, and with the death of Moore in 1923, president, a position he held until his own death in 1952. Under his leadership, the Mutual became the nation's largest black insurance company, a position it maintains today.

As the head not only of the Mutual but also of its numerous subordinate institutionsbanks, a real estate company, and a mortgage companySpaulding was the most powerful black in Durham and among the most powerful in the nation. His endorsement enabled black initiatives to receive financial support from prominent white foundations, such as the Duke and Rosenwald foundations and the Slater Fund. Spaulding used this power to save such black institutions as Shaw University, Virginia Theological Seminary, and the National Negro Business League from insolvency and to influence the press, church sermons, school curriculums, and the allocation of public funds. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, both state and federal governments acknowledged Spaulding's stature, appointing him to relief committees.

In 1933 the National Urban League made him national chair of its Emergency Advisory Council, whose purpose was to obtain black support for the National Recovery Administration (NRA), one of the most important parts of the first phase of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (18821945; served 193345) New Deal plan for boosting the economy. The Council's role was to inform blacks about new laws regarding relief, reemployment, and property and to receive complaints of violations against blacks. Spaulding worked enthusiastically in this position, but his early hope that the NRA would bring a new era of fairness for blacks quickly soured.

As with his work for the Emergency Advisory Council, throughout Spaulding's career there was a tension between his desire to address the causes of black poverty and his need to protect his moderate image. In 1933 Spaulding introduced two local lawyers, Conrad Pearson and Cecil A. McCoy, who wanted to integrate the University of North Carolina, to NAACP secretary Walter White. However, as the case, Hocutt v. North Carolina, gained more publicity, Spaulding withdrew his essential support and worked instead for reform that did not threaten segregation, such as out-of-state tuition and equal teachers' salaries. But by the middle of the 1930s Spaulding actively supported the return of suffrage to blacks and served as chair of the executive committee of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs (founded 1935), which was responsible for the registration of thousands of black voters. Because its endorsement on average ensured candidates 80 percent of the black vote, the DCNA was a major political force on Durham.

With the onset of World War II, Spaulding became concerned almost exclusively with unifying blacks and whites in the name of patriotism. He invested much of the Mutual's assets in the war effort, buying $4.45 million in war bonds, and traveled and gave speeches as associate administrator of the War Savings Staff. After the war, Spaulding focused on the threat he believed communism posed to business. An article he wrote for American Magazine proclaiming its dangers was incorporated into high school textbooks and was reprinted in a variety of languages.

See also Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship; Great Depression and the New Deal; Insurance Companies; National Urban League


Franklin, John Hope, and August Meier. Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

siraj ahmed (1996)