Prince Hall Freemasonry is a branch of North American Freemasonry founded by Prince Hall in the 18th century and composed predominantly of African Americans. There are two main branches of Prince Hall Freemasonry: the independent State Prince Hall Grand Lodges, most of which are recognized by Regular Masonic jurisdictions and those under the jurisdiction of the National Grand Lodge.
Petitions for admittance into existing lodges
Prior to the American Revolutionary War, Prince Hall and fourteen other free black men petitioned for admittance to the white Boston St. John’s Lodge. They were turned down. The Masonic fraternity was attractive to some free blackslike Prince Hall because freemasonry was founded upon ideals of liberty, equality and peace.
Grand Lodge of Ireland
Having been rejected by colonial Freemasonry, Hall and 14 others sought and were initiated into Masonry through Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland on March 6, 1775. The military lodge was attached to the 38th Foot (renamed “The 1st Staffordshire Regiment”) in 1782. The Lodge was attached to the British forces stationed in Boston. Hall and other freedmen founded African Lodge No. 1 and he was named Grand Master. Other African Americans included Cyrus Johnston, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Horward, and Richard Titley, all of whom apparently were free by birth.
When black men wished to become Masons in the new nation the white members of the Lodge had to unanimously vote to accept a petitioner to receive Masonic degrees. If one white person voted against the petitioner that person would be rejected. In a letter by General Albert Pike to his brother in 1875 he said, “I am not inclined to mettle in the matter. I took my obligations to white men, not to Negroes. When I have to accept Negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it.” Masonic and Grand Lodges generally excluded African Americans. Since the votes were anonymous, it was impossible to identify the member who had voted against accepting a black member. The effect was the black men who had legitimately been made Masons in integrated jurisdictions could be rejected. Racial segregation existed until the 1960s and still persists in some jurisdictions.
The black Masons therefore had limited power. When the military lodges left the area, they were given the authority to meet as a lodge, take part in the Masonic procession on St. John’s Day, and bury their dead with Masonic rites but could not confer Masonic degrees or perform any other essential functions of a fully operating Lodge.
Grand Lodge of England
Due to the African Lodge’s popularity and Prince Hall’s leadership, the Grand Lodge of England made Hall a Provincial Grand Master on January 27, 1791. His responsibilities included reporting on the condition of lodges in the Boston area. Six years later, on March 22, 1797 Prince Hall organized a lodge in Philadelphia, called African Lodge #459, under Prince Hall’s Charter. They later received their own charter. On June 25, 1797 he organized African Lodge (later known as Hiram Lodge #3) at Providence, Rhode Island.
Author and historian James Sidbury said
“Prince Hall and those who joined him to found Boston’s African Masonic Lodge built a fundamentally new “African” movement on a preexisting institutional foundation. Within that movement they asserted emotional, mythical, and genealogical links to the continent of Africa and its peoples.”
In 1788 John Marrant became the chaplain of the African Masonic Lodge.
The lodge met in the “Golden Fleece”, located near Boston Harbor, during the 1780s and 1790s. They later met at Kirby Street Temple in Boston.
Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia