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Historical Documents
Beneficial Societies

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Beneficial Societies

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This list, recorded sometime between 1836 and 1838, describes twelve beneficial societies that were formed by Philadelphia blacks.

By 1837, there were nearly one hundred societies operating in the city and its suburbs, claiming a membership of 9,298. More than half of these were organized between 1831 and 1837, in reaction to growing antipathy toward the poor on the part of white Philadelphians. Sixty-two of them were women's societies.

In the Appendix to an 1832 memorial (petition) to the Pennsylvania Legislature , black citizens noted that "[t]hese societies expend annually for the relief of their members when sick or disabled, or in distress, upwards of $7000, out of funds raised among themselves for mutual aid" compared to less than $2000 usually spent on blacks from public relief funds. By 1837, the Societies were distributing $14,000 annually.

Image Credit: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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Related Entries:
Beneficial and Charitable Societies
Appendix to Memorial to Pennsylvania Legislature

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