IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911

by Sam Porcello

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One of the things that surprised me the most during my project research was the fact that the Gradys concealed their ownership of Aetna Ambulance, afraid that, 20 years before the Civil Rights Amendment, people would be reluctant to do business with African Americans.  As Mrs. Grady recounted:

“(My family) found it difficult to get loans to finance their business.  My dad was a local artist and would use what money he received from selling his paintings into the ambulance business.  He was also a barber!  They would conceal their ownership in the following ways: 1) By calling their business Aetna [ostensibly named, with permission, after the insurance company that they worked for] instead of Grady Ambulance because they knew that the general public would probably not do business with them because of the color of their skin; 2) When they appeared in photographs together helping patients they were careful not to have their names recorded or their actual relationship to the business recorded.  People would believe that they were only the ‘ambulance attendants’ which was the intention.”