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Tenth Anniversary of New York Life’s African American Market Unit

The African American Market Unit (AAMU) launched its efforts in 2003. What better way to celebrate its 10th anniversary than by reflecting on how New York Life has been keeping good going long before the AAMU was formed?

The past

New York Life has a long history of leadership and success in the African American community. It was the first major insurance company to hire an African American Agent, in 1957. That agent, Cirilo McSween, was also a civil rights leader and was appointed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s treasurer. He achieved membership in the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT — the industry’s highest recognition for a salesman) in his first year as an Agent, and each year of his 26-year career, becoming the first African American awarded a lifetime membership in MDRT.

In the early 1960s, New York Life began a targeted advertisement campaign to the African American community in a series of ads in Ebony and Black Enterprise magazines. The campaign continued into the eighties. The company also insured many famous African Americans, including Jackie Robinson and Nat King Cole.

The present

The African American Market Unit has 1,110 Agents serving the African American community, up from 535 when the unit was started in 2003. Agent development and retention have been enhanced by workshops, conferences, networking, and newsletters that showcase success strategies and highlight and promote market leaders. This year, over 230 Agents attended the unit’s fifth national conference which was held in conjunction with the American College’s Conference for African American Financial Professionals.

Our commitment to the community has also been evidenced by honoring McSween’s legacy through the Cirilo A. McSween-New York Life Rainbow PUSH Excel Scholarship, which was created in 2004 to assist young people who are qualified but lack the financial resources to attend college. New York Life awards this scholarship to full-time undergraduate students who are majoring in business, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and are active in their communities. Over $250,000 has been awarded to 47 students since the scholarship began.

Honoring the legacy

New York Life is committed to honoring the legacy of African American trailblazers, including those individuals who worked tirelessly over the years to build the foundation on which we stand. In 2011 the AAMU launched the African American Community Empowerment Plan, a commitment that combines the New York Life legacy and the theme of keeping good going to help African Americans ensure a secure financial legacy for future generations through life insurance. The goal is to protect 200,000 families with a minimum of $250,000 of life insurance, in order to create $50 billion of future income.

As of October 10th, more than 86,000 lives have been protected, and more than $18 billion has been put toward creating financial stability, economic opportunity, and multigenerational wealth. For more information, visit