Regarding Brother Hall

For the past few months I have done extensive research on the topic that is Prince Hall Freemasonry. Is it legitimate? Why doesn’t everyone recognize it? What barriers exist for visitation? These are all questions that, up until coming to Korea, had never crossed my mind.

I was informed about Prince Hall on the night of my initiation, back in 2005. A mentor of mind explained to me that Prince Hall lodges were African American in origin back when segregation existed, but now everyone enjoys full amity in Nova Scotia. He even affiliated with a Prince Hall Lodge.

Great, I thought. It’s so good to know that masons of African descent were able to have their own lodges and now mutually co-exist with the mainstream lodges.

And I didn’t give it a second thought for another 5 years.

It wasn’t until after coming to Korea and affiliating with a Scottish Lodge that I noticed there actually isn’t full amity. Especially here in Korea, where the mainstream lodges only recognize a small percentage of Prince Hall Lodges.

I had a difficult time accepting this, especially considering there’s quite a number of Prince Hall masons here in Korea. Are they not our brothers? Do they not follow the same morals and principles as we do?

It was troubling me for awhile, especially more recently, as there has been some heated debate over the subject – causing some disharmony in the craft. Okay, I thought. This is getting serious. As a Freemason, I have a natural tendency to search for more “truth” and “light,” so I figured I’d try my best to get to the bottom of this and make my own conclusions.

Like I say, my research has been quite extensive and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned. Here we go.

Prince Hall – The Man

To be perfectly honest, when I first heard the name Prince Hall I thought it was just the name of the lodges, not an actual person. So, who was he?

As we all should know, Prince Hall is the founder of Black Freemasonry in America. But what else? What kind of man was he?

From Boston, Prince Hall spent his life advocating for the civil rights of African Americans. He was the first black man to petition for the abolition of slavery, which successfully resulted in Massachusetts outlawing the slave trade in 1787. He also petitioned George Washington, a brother, to allow African Americans to serve in the revolutionary war. This initially came off as surprising to me, since Great Britain had already abolished slavery:

The decision of Prince Hall to side with the Colonists was not easy. You know of the rejection he received from the American Masons. The South joining with the North with George Washington as the Commander in Chief and a major slave owner practically assured if the Americans won the war, slavery would continue. Great Briton had outlawed slavery and the British army was the greatest military power in the world. (Milliken, 2009)

Prince Hall petition, resulting in an act abolishing the slave trade in Massachusetts,
Acts of 1787 ch.48

Some people would consider Prince Hall to be a founding father because he also believed in the idea that is America. A new nation where all men would be equal, open to all comers and all ideas and all traditions. He shared in the American vision of open-mindedness and the insatiable desire for knowledge of every type, where shades of belief are personal choices and people are free to express and advance themselves through life:

It was discovered that no one group was more influential in effecting social change than men who were known as Prince Hall Masons. When they looked at the Founding Period of our nation, the number one organizer and the most influential Black man of that time, especially in Massachusetts and New England, was Prince Hall. When we began to compare what the Vision of America was destined to be, and those who best exemplified those virtues, Prince Hall stood out like a beacon. We realized that we did not just have a Black representative to symbolize the Black experience, but a true Patriot and every thing you wished in a Founding Father. (Milliken, 2009)

In 2010 a monument was erected in Prince Hall’s honor at Cambridge Commons
to commemorate his life as one of the founding fathers of America.

Prince Hall – The Lodge

Being one of the first black organizers in American history, Prince Hall tried very hard to show his people how to become independent, contributing members of this new nation’s society. One way he did this was through the morals and virtues of Freemasonry:

But the vision of Prince Hall for a new nation, where all men would be equal, was more real than a dream. For he was sure that the principles of Freemasonry, grounded in religion and the great philosophies, would some day be a reality, where the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man would prevail. (Milliken, 2009)

Before the Revolutionary War, Prince Hall tried to join a lodge in Boston under America’s first provincial grand lodge but was unsuccessful. Slavery having already been abolished in Britain, he looked to the British forces stationed in Boston, and in 1775 he and fourteen other African Americans were regularly initiated into Freemasonry by the brethren of Irish Military Lodge #441 under The Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Castle William, where Prince Hall and 14 other African Americans traveled to, and were initiated as brothers into Irish Military Lodge #441.

In 1776, after the Revolutionary War, the British forces left Boston and Prince Hall was granted a dispensation from Irish Military Lodge, allowing him and the other fourteen to start their own lodge. On July 3rd, 1776, the day before Independence Day, they founded African Lodge #1. However, since they were only under dispensation and had no charter, they could only hold business meetings, march in the St John’s Day parade and bury their dead with masonic funeral rites.

Prince Hall petitioned the provincial grand lodge in America for nine years to get a warrant for African Lodge, but was unsuccessful. After appealing to the Premier Grand Lodge of England, they were finally granted a charter in 1784 and were renamed to African Lodge #459 under what was then also referred to as “The Moderns.”

The charter from the Premier Grand Lodge of England, signed by H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland. This allowed African Lodge #459 to fully operate as a regular lodge in 1784.

In 1791, Prince Hall was made a Provincial Grand Master. One fact that isn’t readily available is that African Lodge #459 was renumbered #370 in 1797 when the Premier Grand Lodge of England purged its rolls of inactive Lodges.  Probably due to a lack of communication, African Lodge was unaware of this and continued to use #459. The same year Prince Hall established lodges in Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island. A year after Prince Hall died in 1807, the three lodges came together and organized African Grand Lodge.

When “The Antients” and “The Moderns” merged and the United Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1813, all U.S. based lodges were stripped from their rolls because America and Britain were at odds during the War of 1812. African Grand Lodge declared it’s independence from the United Grand Lodge of England and all other lodges in 1827. In 1847 they renamed to Prince Hall Grand Lodge in honor of their fore bearer.

Prince Hall – The Notables

Throughout history Freemasonry has made good men better and attracted the likes of those who have high aspirations as well. Prince Hall himself is noted in particular for leadership in the community, and many other Prince Hall masons have followed in his footsteps and shared in those same communitarian values.

Some notable leaders include African-American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, social justice activist Reverend Al Sharpton, the first African-American Justice of the United States Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall, attorney and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus Representative Charles Rangel and educator, author, orator and presidential adviser Booker T. Washington. And like Prince Hall, all of these men also believed in and fought for the attainment of the universal brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

From left to right: Brothers Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton,
Thurgood Marshall, Charles Rangel and Booker T. Washington.

Over half a century ago, Prince Hall Freemasonry provided a safe refuge for traveling black performers in an age of often violent discrimination. If an African American were traveling from a foreign destination to a new destination, he could always feel assured that if he ran across a brother mason that he would be taken care of, that he would have clothing if he needed, he would have food and that he would be put on the right path to continue his travels, much in the same way the underground railroad functioned, right prior to the civil war.

Some notable Prince Hall Freemasons in the entertainment industry include actor comedian Richard Pryor, pugilist “Sugar” Ray Robinson, musicians Nat King Cole, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and basketball player Scottie Pippen.

From left to right: Brothers Richard Pryor, “Sugar” Ray Robinson,
Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Scottie Pippen.

More recently, basketball player Shaquille O’Neal has also been initiated into Prince Hall Freemasonry. He is now a member of Widow’s Son Lodge No. 28 under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts F&AM in Boston.

Most Worshipful Grand Master Hon. Frederick B. Summers
with newly initiated Bro. Shaquille O’Neal.

Prince Hall – The Youth

Prince Hall was a man who cared deeply about the youth of his community. We know that he was a leader who had several petitions put in towards the legislature, but his main interest was the education of black children – so he went about establishing the first black school in Boston. Hall put much of his energy into education. Literate himself, he believed that education was an extremely important skill to teach black children to get them on even footing with whites.

Education played a significant role in Prince Hall’s life. As a slave, Hall was taught to read and write by his master. Some northern slave-owners believed it was a good idea to teach their slaves to become literate. By experiencing how crucial education was, Hall used his leadership to ask the Massachusetts congress for a school program for black children.

Hall cited the same platform for fighting the American Revolution of “Taxation without Representation.” Although Hall’s arguments were logical, his two attempts at passing legislation through the Massachusetts Senate both resulted in failure. Denied equal funding, Hall was not to be deterred and eventually started a school program for free black children out of his own home. Prince Hall emphasized classical education and Liberal Arts. (Brooks, 2000)

From his home on Lendell Lane in 1798, to the African Meeting House on Belknap Street in 1808 after his death, eventually Prince Hall’s vision for a black children’s school would come to fruition in the manifestation of the Smith School in 1835, which the black children of Boston
were assigned to for 20 years until integration occurred.

Prince Hall Freemasonry offers opportunity for self growth and development, citizenship and character building. Prince Hall started this organization to help communities become better communities, and to help young men become better men. Some of the ways it helps the youth of today to carry out the legacy of Prince Hall is by teaching them to look at obstacles as opportunities to grow and develop, and to build character in order to handle adversity. It speaks to youth of things that gives them pride, confidence and dreams so that they can achieve, because that’s what they really need to hear.

Prince Hall Freemasonry sponsors a youth organization for boys called the Knights of Pythagoras. The organization accepts boys between the ages of 8-18 and helps to develop them into young men. The Knights of Pythagoras promotes family values, provide educational scholarships, and plays a significant role in the uplifting of humanity. So named after Pythagoras, who also emphasized social, vocational, physical and moral development:

Though Pythagoras was proficient in many things, he regarded himself merely as a “Seeker after Knowledge”, and not it’s possessor; which may be interpreted as the Beginning of Wisdom. (Mackey, 1878)

Prince Hall Masonry, like the people during the time of Pythagoras, has accepted his philosophies as a way of teaching their children the art of good citizenship.

The paramount aim of the Knights of Pythagoras is to serve the youth of communities with a well organized and supervised program to promote educational, vocational, social activity, health, character, and all around development of boys, while building better sons of today and men of tomorrow.

The ritual is the focal point of all of the order’s programming. Through it, the candidate in his initiation into the order is presented valuable and impressive lessons. This investiture attempts to symbolize and teach reverence for God, love and honor to his parents, righteous thinking, purity, patriotism, toleration, courtesy, friendship and constancy.

A Knight’s goal is to become a better son, youth and citizen than ever before.

Prince Hall The Schism

Not all Prince Hall lodges are the same. In fact, some lodges don’t even recognize others. You may notice that most lodges have the designation “PHA”, which stands for “Prince Hall Affiliated”. However, some other lodges have a designation of “PHO”, which stands for “Prince Hall Origin”. As a general rule, PHA lodges do not recognize PHO lodges. When I tried to look up why, I came across a forum where a PHA mason claimed that:

P.H.O is a spurious, clandestine organization of men who were EXPELLED from P.H.A in the 1960’s for selling degrees and violating other landmarks.

Any black man claiming to be a P.H.O mason is spurious, clandestine, illegitimate and in accordance with Masonic ritual and Law is not to be engaged in any sort of Masonic conversations.

Really, I thought. Being impartial and objective, I decided to dig deeper and what I found was even more surprising. The above claims are, at the very least, unwarranted and unfounded. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s go back to the 19th century not too long after African Grand Lodge was formed.

As a grand lodge, African Lodge #459 went about chartering lodges in different states. By the time they declared their independence from the United Grand Lodge of England, they had already chartered 4 lodges in Pennsylvania and 4 more in New York. These lodges eventually separated from African Grand Lodge to form their own grand lodges, which was a common thing to do at that time. The lodges in Pennsylvania formed the First Independent African Grand Lodge of North America in 1815, while the lodges in New York followed suit by organizing Boyer Grand Lodge later on in 1845.

It’s at this point that we begin to see schisms and fractures in the structure of Prince Hall Freemasonry. There was a period of about 20 years where a small faction opposed the First Independent African Grand Lodge and dissented to form their own Grand Lodge:

In 1818, Union Lodge #2 dissented and declared itself independent of the First Independent African Grand Lodge, and publicly advertised its action. The lodge was expelled by the Grand Lodge on a charge of rebellion and contumacy. Union Lodge ignored the expulsion, and continued to meet. In 1828, Harmony Lodge #5, also of First Independent African Grand Lodge, was expelled for rebellion and contumacy, and this lodge too continued to work without authority.

In 1833, Harmony Lodge obtained a fraudulent charter at a cost of $125 from someone posing as a representative of the Grand Lodge of Ohio (white). In 1837 these two lodges and a spuriously formed lodge came together to organize Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. (Gray, 2003)

In order to settle the dispute between the two grand lodges in Pennsylvania, a convention was held in Boston and in 1847 the Grand Lodges from Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania formed the National Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York-Rite Masons, also known as the National Compact. As a result, there would only be one grand lodge in Pennsylvania and any lodges previously under Hiram Grand Lodge would no longer be deemed irregular.

The National Grand Lodge, established in June of 1847 by
the Grand Lodges of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York.

Of course, there were other reasons why the National Compact was formed. Some of these included getting rid of all the irregular African American Masonry that had spawned over recent years, creating a single ritual that would be used by all lodges across the board, and most importantly, for the benefit and growth of African American masonry in general. Indeed, this was a monumental time for Prince Hall Freemasonry:

This, perhaps, was the most important period in the history of colored Masons in the United States; and had I the power to do so, I would raise my voice in tones of thunder, but with the pathetic affections of a brother; and thrill the cord of every true masonic heart throughout the country and the world, especially of colored men, in exhortations to stability and to Union. Without it, satisfied am I that all our efforts, whether as men or Masons, must fail, utterly fail. “A house divided against itself, cannot stand,” the weak divided among themselves in the midst of the mighty are thriced vanquished, conquered without a blow from the strong; the sturdy hand of the ruthless may shatter in pieces our column guidance, and leave the Virgin of Sympathy to weep through coming time. (Delaney, 1853)

In a period of 30 years the National Compact established about 20 Grand Lodges all across America. Unfortunately the compact didn’t function well and dissension occurred once again, resulting in a much diminished National Grand Lodge. Although most of the compact had disbanded by 1877, the National Grand Lodge is still credited for spreading African American Masonry across America:

Outside of Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, Negro Freemasonry was at a standstill in 1847. Not until after the establishment of the National Grand Lodge was an impetus given to the growth of Colored Freemasonry. (Roundtree, 2006)

What happened next is a point of contention with Prince Hall Masons still to this day. Those who had disbanded from the compact proposed to have it dissolved, but since they never showed up for the National Convention it was never voted on and those who remained continued to establish other grand lodges. Thus, all lodges that disbanded came to be known as “Prince Hall Affiliated” (PHA) and those who remained are designated as “Prince Hall Origin” (PHO).

These PHO Lodges exist today in 27 states with 300 lodges and about 5000 members. For over a hundred years Prince Hall masons have argued over its regularity. Some call them clandestine while others say they have a legitimate claim to be fully recognized as brothers:

Without the National Grand Lodge some of today’s Prince Hall Grand Lodges might never have existed! They knew no life other than the National Grand Lodge. They had no other source early in life.  Seemingly, they grew up, left home and denounced their parents. Leaders and members of Prince Hall Grand Lodges speak of the National Grand Lodge with total disdain as something that should never have happened, not addressing or even realizing the fact that it is the source of their existence!  Many histories of the Grand Lodges that declared their independence from the National Grand Lodge make a brief mention of being a part of the National Grand Lodge. (Roundtree, 2006)

Prince Hall – The Recognition

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that African Americans weren’t admitted into white lodges in revolutionary times largely due to racism under the guise that blacks weren’t “free-born” men. However, as Prince Hall had formed lodges in Boston and Philadelphia there was a period of time when blacks and whites did sit in lodge together, right up until 1833:

In the earliest days their Lodge was freely visited by white Masons; — and down to the present time many white Masons, when influenced by curiosity or higher motives, have not hesitated to thus recognize them. But gradually, especially after some white Grand Lodges, — acting upon the slight information that was then accessible — had questioned their standing, and the advantages of exclusive territorial jurisdiction had become apparent, their origin was lost sight of; and the view that they were — for what reason was generally but vaguely understood — more or less irregular, became prevalent, and finally crystallized among the rank and file of the Fraternity into almost an axiom. (Upton, 1899)

Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction? Basically this is a doctrine stating that there can only be one Grand Lodge in any state or territory. This was referred to as a purely American doctrine as many lodges in continental Europe and other places in the world allowed several Grand Lodges to share the same jurisdiction with full amity. Also, it should be known that Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction is only a doctrine and not an ancient landmark of Freemasonry.

So how did this doctrine come to pass? It actually started in New York, when the Grand Lodge passed a resolution stating that they wouldn’t issue a charter to any lodge in a state where a Grand Lodge already existed. This was to prevent recognition of any African American lodges in New York City:

On October 2, 1818, there appeared a notice in several local newspapers, calling for a meeting of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons on October 6, 1818 in the City of New York, and styled, the “African Lodge”. The notice was signed: Sandy Lattion, Worshipful Master. Interestingly enough, just one day later, on October 7, 1818, the White Grand Lodge of the State of New York called a special meeting, and what appeared to be an urgent meeting, to convene and investigate this matter. As a consequence, a Committee was appointed to investigate, and report back. This information was thunderous, since approximately ten thousand of the forty thousand Blacks in the State, were still under the yoke of the institution of slavery. This “incursion” into, “Their Territory and Fraternity”, was a hard pill to swallow by many whites within our State, when hearing of an established and operating Masonic Lodge composed of Free Black Men in New York City. (Bey, 2008)

This practice soon spread and by the 1880s Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction was put forth as law in American Mainstream Freemasonry.

At this point in American History, slavery had ended but racism persisted. This doctrine was the new guise for the non-recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry, because believe me – the predominately white lodges felt that African Americans had no business being Freemasons:

” Resolved, That in the opinion of this Grand Lodge, it would be inexpedient and tend to mar the harmony of the fraternity to admit any of the persons of color, so-called, into the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons within the jurisdiction of thie Grand Lodge. ” — Grand Lodge of Ohio, adopted 1847

” Resolved, That all subordinate lodges under this jurisdiction be instructed to admit no negro or mulatto as a visitor or otherwise, under any circumstances whatever. ” — Grand Lodge of Illinois, adopted 1851

” Resolved, That lodges under this jurisdiction are positively prohibited from initiating, passing, raising, or admitting to membership, or the right of visitation, any negro, mulatto, or colored person of the United States. This prohibition shall be an obligation, and so taught in the third degree. ” — Grand Lodge of Delaware, adopted 1867

” To have Lodges exclusively of Negroes, would be dangerous to the high character of our Order. And, to associate them in Lodges with white brethren, would be impossible. ” — Grand Lodge of Illinois Proceedings, 1899

It was during this period of time when the assumption was that Prince Hall Lodges were clandestine simply because it was illegal for African Americans to be masons. It wasn’t until the late 19th century when masonic scholars and committees actually started to question if Prince Hall Lodges were legitimate in origin.

Eventually in 1898, The Grand Master of Washington – William H. Upton, along with a committee, made recommendations that were adopted:

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this Grand Lodge, Masonry is universal; and, without doubt, neither race nor color are among the tests proper to be applied to determine the fitness of a candidate for the degrees of Masonry. Resolved, That in view of recognized laws of the Masonic Institution, and of facts of history apparently well authenticated and worthy of full credence, this Grand Lodge does not see its way clear to deny or question the right of its constituent Lodges, or of the members thereof, to recognize as brother Masons, Negroes who have been initiated in Lodges which can trace their origin to Prince Hall Lodge, No. 459. (Upton, 1898)

A white grand lodge had actually recognized Prince Hall Freemasonry for the first time ever.

It was, however, short lived due to the widely accepted doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction:

But tremendous pressure was brought on the Grand Lodge of Washington including losing Mainstream recognition in many other states. So the recognition of Prince Hall was rescinded. But William Upton never ceased working to try to re institute the recognition. When he died his will stated that there was not to be any marker on his grave until such time as Black Masonry and White Masonry had joined in mutual recognition in Washington state. (Milliken, 2010)

William H. Upton brought forth a report on Prince Hall Freemasonry to the Grand Lodge of Washington urging them to adopt recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry and in 1898 they did. However, it was soon rescinded due to pressure from other grand lodges. Grand Master Upton declared that no headstone be put on his grave until brothers of whatever race could march side by side.

The argument of Prince Hall Freemasonry being legitimate was sound. They could trace their origin to the Premier Grand Lodge of England. Unfortunately, racism persisted under the guise of the doctrine of jurisdiction and would continue for years to come. In essence, many would allow African Americans to have their own lodges while preventing them from joining or visiting mainstream lodges:

The case of the Negroes in America is equally emergent and exceptional. There may be no law to prevent their initiation in white Lodges, but the ballot bars their entry. The conclusion is obvious. Masonry knows no distinction of race, religion or color; and if you won’t have them in your Lodges, you must, in fairness, permit them to have Lodges of their own. (Speth, 1898)

Then again, in 1947, recognition was almost within reach – this time with the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. But objections still persisted from other grand lodges and recognition was rescinded once more, albeit only on account of those objections. At this point there was no doubt of the legitimacy of Prince Hall in the State of Massachusetts:

1947.03.12 “the Committee does not recommend what is technically known Masonically as ‘recognition.’ Neither does it recommend inter-visitation. Mere acknowledgment of legitimacy implies neither.”

1949.06.08 “specially not because it was incorrect but because it has brought objections from certain other jurisdictions.” … “Unity and Harmony are vastly more important to the Fraternity than debates about Negro Freemasonry.” ” — Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

For much of the 20th century there had been individuals and grand lodges who had much desire to give recognition to their Prince Hall counterparts but always backed down due to pressure from other grand lodges.


..the closing moments of the 1989 Grand Lodge Session in the state of Connecticut. The brethren were tired after a long day of business, elections and installations and wanted to close the lodge as it was already evening. However, one past grand master had a motion that needed to be resolved:

WHEREAS  Qualified Masonic scholars and several in-depth investigations have demonstrated conclusively that the Prince Hall body of Freemasonry is completely legitimate;

WHEREAS  Eminent and distinguished members of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, A.F. & A.M. have, more than once, attested in the courts of the land to the legitimacy of the Prince Hall Masons in Connecticut;

WHEREAS  The doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction is a myth, and a device formulated by American Grand Lodges without any basis in Masonic custom and usage and not universally practiced by the originators;

WHEREAS  Division among Men and Masons claiming to practice the Brotherhood of all Man under the Fatherhood of one God is contrary to the basic and ancient tenets and teachings of Freemasonry;

THEREFORE  Be it resolved that this Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Connecticut, request fraternal recognition from the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Connecticut, Prince Hall Affiliation;

And be it further resolved that the Grand Master is hereby authorized to appoint a special, temporary sub-committee to the Committee on Fraternal Relations for the sole purpose of contacting Connecticut Prince Hall Masons and advising the full Committee.

I move that this resolution be accepted, printed in the proceedings and referred to the Committee on Fraternal Relations with instructions to present a report with a recommendation at the next communication of this Grand Lodge on October 14, 1989.

– Gail Linnell Smith, 1968 Grand Master, father of the new Grand Master

The mood of the room changed in an instant. The brethren went from being tired and exhausted to being excited and joyous. The motion was approved unanimously with hundreds of brothers jumping to their feet to second the motion. Finally, it had happened. And this time for good.

It didn’t end there. Word spread of what happened and less than a year later Washington, Wisconsin and Nebraska gained full recognition. Within half a dozen years 10 more states followed suit. A couple years after that, the total number of states doubled. What the Grand Lodge of Connecticut accomplished in 1989 started a whole wave of mutual recognition between mainstream grand lodges and their Prince Hall counterparts.

To date, 42 Grand Lodges have voted favorably toward recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodges (82%).

And finally, since recognition was achieved in his home state, a headstone was erected on William H. Upton’s grave as a monument to his vision. At last, brethren of whatever race could march side by side.

Prince Hall – The Future

Prince Hall Freemasonry certainly has come a long way, although there remains 9 grand lodges who still have yet to grant recognition. It’s interesting to note that these 9 states also happen to be former confederate states where slavery was fully lawful before the American Civil War.

It may take decades, but hopefully the disdain of the American South will dissipate and realize that the great aim of Freemasonry is the attainment of the universal brotherhood of man:

“God pity the man who will not lay on the altar of Masonry every feeling of ambition, every feeling of ill will in his breast toward a brother Mason. Freemasonry is one faith, one great religion, one great common altar around which all men of all tongues and all languages can assemble. And Masonry will never be true to her mission until we all join hands, heart to heart, and hand to hand around the Altar of Masonry, with a determination that Masonry shall become at some time worthy of her pretensions – no longer a pretender to that which is good, but that she shall be an Apostle of peace, good will, charity and toleration.”

— Albert Pike, in an Address in St. Louis, Mo., 1868

That being said, we must bear in mind at all times that we must recognize and abide by regulations of each and every Grand Jurisdiction. Not long after Connecticut gained mutual recognition, some grand lodges voiced concerns. Probably the worst was when the Grand Master of Louisiana made the following edict:

WHEREAS: … various and sundry fraternal organizations including … Elks … Moose … Prince Hall Masons, gratefully acknowledging the outstanding contributions on the part of each organization toward the promotion of the general welfare of all human beings;

WHEREAS: The Grand Lodge of Connecticut, A.F. & A.M. adopted a resolution dated October 14th, 1989 giving recognition to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M. of Connecticut, Inc. 

WHEREAS: the resolution adopted on October 14th, 1989 by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut AF&AM, is contrary to and conflicts with the Constitution … of the GLLA, as well as the obligations of a Master Mason.

THEREFORE: I, EUGENE F. LOVE, GRAND MASTER OF MASONS, THE GRAND LODGE OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA, F.&A.M. DO HEREBY ISSUE THE FOLLOWING EDICT EFFECTIVE FROM THE DATE SHOWN ON THE BOTTOM HEREOF: The Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana, F. & A.M. does hereby sever all Masonic relations and/or communications with The Grand Lodge of Connecticut, A.F. & A.M. 

— Eugene F. Love, G.M., Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1990

The edict was later rescinded, but unfortunately not in time to allow a Connecticut Mason’s family to bury him with full masonic rites in his home state of Louisiana.

In Korea, the lodges under the Grand Lodge of Scotland do recognize a few Prince Hall Grand Lodges, but unfortunately none of the ones who meet on the peninsula. I was surprised to learn that Scotland doesn’t grant recognition; that it has to be asked for. Sometimes I wish they would follow other Grand Lodges’ example and just give blanket recognition. That is, recognition in every state where full recognition already exists. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it really makes sense that an older grand lodge needs to follow the lead of a younger grand lodge in order to promote the brotherhood of man:

In a society that espouses the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man it is time for those who do not live up to its ideals to do what is right without being asked. (Milliken, 2008)

But I digress. As long as a grand lodge upholds all of the ancient landmarks, Scotland will grant recognition. Some people say that the Prince Hall Grand Lodges don’t want to request recognition because they are afraid that their members will demit. That doesn’t have to be the case. When Connecticut gained mutual recognition in 1989, they allowed inter-visitation but not demission:

The question of dual membership was easily resolved: the Prince Hall Grand Lodge did not then permit dual membership, and this would not change under mutual recognition. After considerable discussion, it was agreed that initially, at least, demission between the two Grand Lodges would not be allowed. This would, after the votes were taken, lead some to say that the two Grand Lodges had only achieved ‘partial recognition,’ but all appropriately opted for caution as the Grand Lodges explored unbroken ground. (Ek, 2009)

At the risk of sounding cliché, if there’s a will there’s a way.

Prince Hall – The Bottom Line

When I first started doing research, it was because I was curious about some of the claims brothers were posting online:

Prince Hall was a vile man who became a Mason under false pretenses, lying through-his-teeth on his petition for admission. He made it through, learned all our secrets, left the Brotherhood, and founded his own Lodge. That in a nutshell is the history & ancestry of Prince Hall Masonry.

I didn’t need to prove to legitimacy of Prince Hall Freemasonry in this article. That was done over a hundred years ago in Washington.

We know now that there are 9 grand lodges in the United States that are still holding out on recognition under the guise of the doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction. Some Grand Lodges give blanket recognition. The Grand Lodge of Scotland will give recognition if it’s requested. Several years ago following a discussion at an Installation Harmony in Korea the District Representative of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Oregon, Idaho and Montana wrote to his grand lodge recommending that they seek recognition from Scotland so that his members could attend Scottish Lodge meetings in Korea. That was done and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, Idaho and Montana is now recognized. And if need be, inter-visitation can be allowed without demission.

It sure would be great if the Scottish and Prince Hall brethren in Korea could sit in lodge together. Recognition isn’t as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. Perhaps all that’s required is a little patience, an opportunity and maybe even a little luck.

Give the right hand of affection and fellowship to whom it justly belongs; let their color and complexion be what it will, let their nation be what it may, for they are your brethren, and it is your indispensable duty so to do

— Prince Hall, 1797.

37 Pa. D. & C.2d 65, *; 1962 Pa. D. & C. LEXIS 391, **

Rediscovering a hero BY RICK FOSTER SUN CHRONICLE STAFF. Sunday, May 16, 2010 1:40 AM EDT

Milliken, Frederic L. (2009). Prince Hall Memorial.

Maurice Wallace, “Are We Men?: Prince Hall, Martin Delany, and the Masculine Ideal in Black Freemasonry,” American Literary History, Vol. 9, No. 3.

William H. Upton, Negro Masonry, (New York: AMS Press, 1975).

Joanna Brooks, “Prince Hall Freemasonry, and Genealogy,” African American Review, Vol. 34, No. 2.

Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989; ISBN 0-87023-663-6), p. 203.

Williams A. Muraskin, Middle Class Blacks in a White Society, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975).

Lamont D. Thomas. Paul Cuffe: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988) pp. 126–7

Theda Skocpol, “Organizations Despite Adversity: The Origins and Development of African American Fraternity Associates,” Social Science History, Volume 28, Number 3.

Williams A. Muraskin, “Middle Class Blacks in a White Society,” Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975.

Maurice Jackson, “Friends of the Negro! Fly with Me, The Path is Open to the Sea,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 6, No. 1. pp. 58 – 59

Arthur White, “Black Leadership Class and Education in Antebellum Boston: The Journal of Negro Education,” Autumn 1973.

Raymond T. Coleman (2007). Prince Hall History Education Class, Grand Historian Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

Joanna Brooks, “Prince Hall, Freemasonry, and Genealogy,” Indiana State University, 34.2 (2000): 197–216. Print

An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey, The Masonic History Company, New York, 1878. Vol. 2

Chapter Seven of Inside Prince Hall (2003), by David L. Gray (Edited by Tony Pope). Published by Australian New Zealand Masonic Research Council & Anchor Communications.

Roundtree, Alton. Bessel, Paul. (2006). Out of the Shadows – The Emergence of Prince Hall Freemasonry in America. KLR Publishing, Maryland.

Upton, William H. (1899). Light on a Dark Subject. SEATTLE. THE PACIFIC SEATTLE MASON, PUBLISHER.

Roberts, Allen E. (1996). Who are these Prince Hall Masons? FPS, Virginia.

Ek, Carl G. (2009). 20 Years of Mutual Recognition.Connecticut Freemasons. Wallingford, CT.

Milliken, Frederic L. (2010). William H. Upton.The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Havana, FL.

Letter from George W Speth 1898-09-22, Secretary QC2076, Editor AQC, in Upton: “Light on a Dark Subject”, 1899 A14 p119

Walkes (1983). The Walkes Blueprint — A Vision for Universality in American Freemasonry. Toronto Society for Masonic Research.

Harrison, R. Stanley. (1992). DISPELLING THE MYTH THAT PRINCE HALL MASONS ARE CLANDESTINE. (A talk to the Grand Secretaries assembled at the Grand Masters conference in Alexandria, VA)

Delaney, Martin R. (1853). The Origin And Objects of Ancient Freemasonry – It’s Introduction Into the United States and Legitimacy Among Colored Men. Pittsburgh: Printed by W.B. Haven, Corner Market and Second Street.

Bey, Ezekiel M. (2008). History of Prince Hall Masonry in New York. Harlem, New York.

Tupper, Charles H. (2010). Prince Hall Masonry. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

Milliken, Frederic L. (2004). Racism in Freemasonry. Masonic Papers, Masonic Dictionary Dot-com.


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