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National Ideal Benefit Society records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 16256

Scope and Contents

This collection contains documents from 1912 to 1951, 0.06 cubic feet, such as invitations, receipts, financial papers, letters, certificates, and programs related to the activities of the National Ideal Benefit Society (NIBS), an African American insurance cooperative headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. The documents are mostly written by African Americans, from NIBS policy holders to leaders of the African American community.


  • 1912-1951

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

National Ideal Benefit Society was a very successful African-American owned insurance company.Alexander Watson (A.W.) Holmes was born on 15 June 1861 in Louisa County, Virginia. His parents, Anthony and Martha Holmes, were slaves living on or near a tobacco plantation called Frederick Hall. Following emancipation Holmes attended school as the opportunity arose and began earning wages at fourteen, initially working in a factory. Anthony Holmes eventually purchased a farm, which the younger Holmes inherited. A.W. Holmes spent most of his adult life in Richmond, Virginia. He belonged to or led various African American charitable organizations, including the Twilight Foundation and the True Reformers, and was a member of the deaconry of the First Baptist Church. In 1912 he became the first Supreme Master of the National Ideal Benefit Society, an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits aided the sick and indigent and provided assistence with the burial of the dead. A Junior Department organized by Holmes's wife Mary sought to train children in the principles and benefits of the society. By 1928, NIBS was stated to have almost 40,000 members in chapters in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. A.W. Holmes died in 1935 after 23 years at the head of the organization. Management of NIBS fell to Benjamin Walter Perkins, who filled the unexpired terms of Holmes and was elected Supreme Master.


0.06 Cubic Feet (Two folders in a legal document box BW 10.)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased as two separate collections, one from The Book Broker by the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia on November 7, 2016 and the second from Swann Auction Galleries in 2017.
National Ideal Benefit Society records
Ellen Welch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
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Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States