Prince Hall Story
from various sources by
E. Connors, Jr.
Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Master of Texas
Prince Hall, our founder, was one of the greatest
Americans; a Worthy Grand Master associated with our first black Masonic Grand
Lodge and its expansions. His name is carried and borne by Masonic Organizations
throughout the United States and thousands of Masons who regard themselves as
descendants from the Grand Lodge of England from which he received his authority
more than two centuries ago. America celebrated in 1976 the two hundredth
anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. This year Prince Hall masons
will celebrate the two hundred and twenty fourth (224th) anniversary
of the founding of Prince Hall Masonry in the United States. Prince hall of
Texas will celebrate their 124th year of Prince Hall Masonry in the
State of Texas. This article is a monument to Prince Hallís life, career and
leadership. It shall further serve as information about Prince Hall Masonry.
A significant event happened in Masonry on March 6,
1775. John Bratt, working under the authority and the Constitution of the Grand
Lodge of Ireland, initiated Prince Hall and fourteen (14) other free black men
into masonry in the Army Lodge No. 44. The other candidates were Cyrus Johnson,
Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff
Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best,
Forten Howard and Richard Titley. When the British Regiments left Boston on
March 17, 1776, a dispensation was issued by Batt authorizing Prince Hall and
his brethren to meet as a lodge under restrictions. Under this permit, African
Lodge No. 1 was formed July 3, 1776. Official acknowledgement of the legitimacy
of African Lodge No. 1 was almost immediately made by John Rowe of Boston, a
Caucasian and provincial Grand Master of North America holding authority from
the premier Grand Lodge of Freemasons, the Grand Lodge of England. He, too,
issued a permit authorizing African Lodge No. 1 to appear publicly in procession
as a Masonic Body for the purpose of celebrating the Feast of Saints John and to
bury its dead.
For nine years these brethren, with other free black
men who had received their degrees in Europe, assembled together and enjoyed
their limited privileges as Masons, distressed that Prince Hallís attempts to
formally associate African Lodge with Caucasian Grand Lodges were frustrated by
bigotry and racism. It was an ironic period in American history when colonists
embraced the doctrine of independence, liberty, and equality to justify the
revolt against English rule while promoting and condoning the economic and
social exploitation of blacks debased by slavery.
Finally, in March, 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the
Grand Lodge of England through Worshipful Master William Moody of Brotherly Love
Lodge No. 55 (London, England) for a warrant of Constitution. The Charter was
prepared and issued on September 29, 1784, although it would be three years
before African Lodge No. 459 and thus began the parallel lines of black and
Caucasian Freemasonry which continues to exist in America.
Some white Masons say that Blacks were not denied
admission to white lodges and they point to the very few and the presence of
others by invitation as proofs. D. Bentley, a contemporary who wrote in his
diary, available to all, "The truth is they are shamed of being equal with
blacks. Even the fraternities of France, given to merit without distinction of
color do not influence Massachusettsís masons to give embrace less emphactical
or tender affectionate to their Black Brethren. It is evident that a preeminence
is claimed by whites." The same situation exists in Texas today but not in
all states. Many Texas Caucasian masons refuse to recognize Prince Hall Masons
however they do consider permitting a limited number of black men, thought to be
prestigious and financially solvent, to join their local lodges. Texas Prince
Hall Masons are proud of their legacy and history that our ancestors such as
Norris Wright Cuney, I. H. Clayborne, Thomas H. Routt and many others worked so
hard for. We are not actively seeking anyone to recognize us.
Before 1815, exclusively territorial jurisdiction
was not an active and recognized doctrine of English Masonic Custom. The African
Lodge of Boston exercised its right to establish other lodges, making itself a
Mother Lodge, its Master Prince Hall having the authority to issue warrants on
the same basis as Masters of Lodges in Europe!
African Lodges were constituted in Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, and New York. On June 24, 1791, the African Grand Lodge of North
America was organized in Boston with Prince Hall as Grand Master. This was one
year before the organization of the United Grand Lodge of Massachusetts
(Caucasian). In 1827, 45 years after the (Caucasian) Grand Lodge of
Massachusetts had done so, African Lodge of Boston declared itself independent
of the Grand Lodge of England.
Prince Hall died December 4, 1807. His successors
were Nero Prince, who sailed to Russia in the year 1808, George Middleton, Peter
Lew, Samuel H. Moody and the well-known John T. Hilton. The original charter of
African Lodge of Boston is in the possession of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and is the only known original 18th
Century Charter in existence issued to any American Lodge by the Grand Lodge of
England. It proudly represents the indisputable legitimacy and regularity of 45
Prince Hall Grand Lodges and their subordinate lodges and affiliated bodies.
In 1869, a fire destroyed Massachusetts Grand Lodge
headquarters and a number of its priceless records. The Charter, in its medal
tube was in the Grand Lodge chest. The tube saved the Charter from the flames
but the intense heat charred it. Grand Master S.T. Kendall crawled into the
burning building and saved the Charter from complete destruction. Thus a Grand
Masterís devotion and heroism further consecrated this parchment to us, and
add a further detail to its history.
The descendent Grand Lodges of African Grand Lodge
changed their names to "Prince Hall Grand Lodge" with two exceptions.
Today, throughout the world, there are 44 "Most Worshipful Prince Hall
Grand Lodges", some 5000 subordinate Lodges and more than 300,000 Prince
The Church and Prince Hall Masonry for many years
were the two strongest organizations in the black communities for many years. In
fact, they were the only organizations that black men and women could
participate in or join. Masonic Lodge Halls were used as locations for church
services and teaching blacks how to read and write. Prince Hall Masons utilized
their resources to provide young black men and women scholarships to college, to
provide various forms of charity in their local communities, and to assist in
many other programs in the black communities. Ninety percent of the founders of
Black Greek Fraternities and Sororities were either Prince Hall Masons, Heroines
of Jericho or Order of the Eastern Stars.
Prince Hall Masonry is alive and well in the State
of Texas. Our Grand Lodge Office is located in Fort Worth, Texas. Operating
under the auspices of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas are
the Grand High Court Heroines of Jericho and the Norris Wright Cuney Grand
Chapter. Each organization has local Lodges, Courts and Chapters in every county
located in Texas.
Our mission is to disseminate charity; promote the
spirit of brotherly love; teach and encourage the idea of peace, harmony and
good will among the people and loyalty to the constituted authority of our state
The essential qualification for admission into and
continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to all
men of any race or religion who can fulfill the essential qualifications and are
of good repute.
For further information about Prince Hall Masonry in
Texas or how to become a member, may contact the office of the Most Worshipful
Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas in Fort Worth, Texas at (8170 534-4612. The
website is www.mwphglotx.org.
The mailing address is P.O. Box 1478, Fort Worth, Texas 76101-1478. If you are
in the San Antonio area and wish to know more about Prince Hall Masons, please
email the webmaster for more information.