This photograph is of the North Carolina Mutual Glee Club in 1929. Bessie Whitted is on the far left, front row.
Ms. Bessie Alberta Johnson Whitted was born in Charlotte NC, and educated at Barbara Scotia Women's Seminary before she came to work at the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1907. She was one of the first female employees there, and she quickly became a vital part of the growing business. When she retired in 1957, she had been promoted to the level of Assistant Treasurer (she also served as casheir and chief bookkeeper for the company during her term there). Ms. Bessie, as she was fondly called by all, was famous, not only because she was the 'black woman who handled the most cash in the country' but also because of her community involvement-- with youth education, the Algonquin Tennis Club, Iota Phi Lambda businesswomen's sorority, and St. Joseph's AME Church...on top of all that, she threw extravagant parties at her home on Fayetteville Street, all of this while she was paving the way for women in business. In 1959, just months before her death, she was recognized at a This is Your Life Ms. Bessie Ceremony. To listen to an audio documentary containing parts of that ceremony, and to hear Ms. Bessie's admirer's tell her story, click the link below, or download the mp3 file.