Mutual Benefit Societies for freed African slaves

Mutual benefit societies were organizations that provided mutual aid for “free Africans and their descendants” which emerged after the abolition of slavery in the United States. These Mutual aid societies were created to help people, given welfare was segregated and controlled by white people. These societies also acted as cultural centres and were often connected with black churches. 

They provided a range of roles. For example, members would pay into a common fund, which in times of illness, funerals or hardship members could draw on. Many societies took a role in engaging in political advocacy towards the goal of greater civil rights, and some societies took on an educational role- aiming to provide literacy and skills to their members. They also served as a network for jobs, and provided support for widows and orphans of their members.  

Examples include 

  • The Free African Society (FAS), founded in 1787 in Philadelphia.
  • Grand United Order of True Reformers
  • Independent Order of St. Luke
  • Free African Union Society

More information