George Leef, vice president for research at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, has a very good summary of several recent talks given by historian David Beito on the topic of "Black Fraternal Societies, Mutual Aid, and Civil Rights," drawn largely from Beito's wonderful book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State. Here's Leef:
Another very important group was the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, founded by ex-slaves in the late 19th century. Among other accomplishments, this group established a hospital that opened in Mound City, Mississippi, in 1942. The doctors and staff were black. They provided good medical care for people who would not be admitted at other hospitals. Taborian members could purchase medical insurance for $8 per year in 1942, entitling them to up to 30 days of hospital care.
The chief surgeon at the Taborian hospital was Dr. T. R. M. Howard, who was not only an accomplished doctor, but also a remarkably successful businessman. By the early 1950s, he had begun numerous businesses in Mississippi and built the first swimming pool for blacks and had even started a zoo. In 1951 Howard formed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership with the goal of promoting thrift, entrepreneurship, equal treatment under the law, and voting rights. Beito comments that Howard's approach combined that of Booker T. Washington (who was primarily oriented toward success through the free market) and of W.E. B. DuBois, who advocated more emphasis on politics.
Howard's group held a very large rally each summer, drawing thousands of supporters. The rallies were in rural areas of Mississippi where violence by the Klan would certainly have been possible. There never was any, however, because Howard made sure to post armed guards all around. Howard himself usually went around armed and his home was an arsenal. Two crucial elements in Howard's success: the freedom to acquire and profitably use property, and the right to defend himself.