Acknowledging our past: New York Life and slavery.

As a 178-year-old company, New York Life’s history is interwoven with our nation’s history, including its worst periods. For two years, between 1846-1848, New York Life sold policies on the lives of enslaved people. Our company has publicly acknowledged and is deeply sorry for this period of our history.

While we cannot change this history, we have long been open and transparent about this period. More than twenty years ago,1 we undertook an extensive review of our slavery era archival records, including published histories of the company, its registers, an index of applicants and a death claim book. These documents show that between 1846 and 1848, the company insured the lives of 520 individuals who appear to have been enslaved, based on company records. Our review found that the company ultimately paid claims on 15 of those individuals who died and that the company’s board of trustees voted to end the practice of selling policies on enslaved individuals two years after it began. 

In 2002, we donated our records from this time to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a part of the New York Public Library system. The Schomburg Center is devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of people of African descent throughout the world. We also paid to have the records digitized to make them more easily accessible by the public.

While we recognize that we cannot change our company’s past, our understanding of those two years of our history has played a role in our long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and our dedication to uplifting the Black community, both within our company and in the communities we serve.


1In 2000, California enacted legislation that required life insurance companies to report on any historical records they possessed regarding policies sold on the lives of enslaved individuals.

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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937