He Made Burial Insurance Affordable For The Grieving Black Families

arthur gaston in a suit
Via archbridgeinstitute
Tremain Prioleau II
May 15, 2023

Burial practices have long been important to African culture. However, it was against the law for Black people to have funeral services during slavery. Our humanity was being denied even after death and even today, the costs of funeral services are expensive.

After moving to Alabama with his mother, A.G Gaston began working for Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. There he noticed the need for funeral services for Black people. In the 1930’s he began selling burial insurance. This led to him owning his own funeral home and insurance businesses.

Gatson used his wealth to fight against Jim Crow policies. He once threatened to take millions out of a local Birmingham bank unless segregated water fountains were taken out of the lobby. He knew that this capitalistic country listens to money and his voice was loud.

In 1953, there were 3,000 Black-owned funeral homes. Today there are fewer than 1,200. It’s still just as expensive today and the lack of homes is endangering our culture of honoring transitioning.

We deserve to bury our people properly, but capitalism made the simple act of honoring our ancestors a financial burden. Gatson’s story reminds us that we must care for each other.