Depictions of Slavery in Confederate and Southern States Currency
Original Acrylic on Canvas Paintings by

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Press Release


Welcome to the California Department of Insurance's Communications Office Web page.

May 1, 2002 (#057)


SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Insurance (CDI) released today the results of an industry survey conducted in accordance with Senate Bill 2199 on the subject of slavery era insurance policies.

SB 2199 was passed by the State Legislature in the 2000 session and signed into law by California Governor Gray Davis on September 29, 2000.

The report includes variations of data including slave name, slaveholder name, slave occupation, county or town and some policy numbers from the documents collected.  Many of the slave policies reported only include a first name.

All companies doing business during the slavery era have complied with the statute’s requirement.

The vast majority of insurers responded that they were not incorporated until after the slavery era ended and they had no predecessor companies (the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1865).

Of the insurers in business (or had predecessors that were in business) during the slavery era, most reported they searched all of their records and were unable to find any records related to policies on the lives of slaves.  Each company was also required to submit a detailed methodology explaining how their historical search was conducted.

Eight companies provided documents related to slavery era insurance policies.  Three have provided names of slaves and slaveholders. “I believe historical and genealogical societies may find some of the information particularly useful,” said Insurance Commissioner Harry W. Low.  “When you consider many of the documents collected are more than 150 years old, we were really working against time."

An example of the kind of information available in the report includes data submitted by an insurer who acquired a database of information about transatlantic slave trade.  The insurer reviewed historical records it received from predecessor corporations and discovered a copy of a slave policy written in 1855 for a slave named Peter, identified as a laborer working in Mississippi.  The company provided a copy of the policy.

The statute required the Insurance Commissioner to request and obtain information from insurers licensed and doing business in California regarding any records of slaveholder insurance policies issued by the company or any predecessor company during the slavery era.  The bill also required the commissioner to obtain the names of any slaveholders or slaves described in those insurance records and make the information available to the public and the Legislature.

The statute also required: Each insurer licensed and doing business in this state shall research and report to the commissioner with respect to any records within the insurer's possession or knowledge relating to insurance policies issued to slaveholders that provided coverage for damage to or death of their slaves.

After hearings in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and ample time for public comment, the Department’s regulations implementing the statute became effective in October 2001.

The reports filed by the insurers are available for viewing at CDI’s Public Viewing Rooms in San Francisco at 45 Fremont Street (415-538-4300), and in
Los Angeles at 300 South Spring Street (213-346-6707).  The Department’s report to the Legislature, which describes the submissions and which also contains the names of slaves and slaveholders, is on the CDI web site at


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