Prince Hall Freemasonry

If you don’t know about it already, then let us tell you that Prince Hall Freemasonry is known as a parallel line of Freemasonry, which is said to be initiated as a Masonic Lodge for the purpose of keeping the freed African slaves into the colonies while the Revolutionary war was going on. 

If we talk in the context of today, then Prince Hall fraternity is said to have around 4,500 lodges in the whole globe. It forms at least 44 independent jurisdictions that has the membership of up to 300,000 masons. It is also to be noticed here that any person who is kind-hearted and is capable of being a mason can seek more knowledge and light in Masonry.

You need to know that Prince Hall Freemasonry doesn’t have one organizing body, not even a single. The Conference of Grand Masters Prince Hall Masons, Inc. 

It is supposed to be a step taken in determining Prince Hall lodge local to your own residency as it contains Grand Masters of the Jurisdiction, who end up making up the Prince Hall Masonic Family, according to the principle it can take place in the US and its jurisdictions. 

Apart from this, as far as the Phylaxis Society is concerned, that might serve as another organizational resource in order to explore the Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Prince Hall Freemasonry

Who is Prince Hall Freemasonry?

All this time, you might have a question in mind that who is Prince Hall? What does this mean, and what’s the relevance? All you need to know about Prince Hall is that it is identified as the Father of Black Masonry in the US. 

If we go into history, then he is the one who made it possible for the black people or Negroes to be identified and get the rights they were deprived of. Even the right of identity was not granted to them. He made it possible for them to enjoy all their rights and privileges without being slaves and for free. After that, the Negroes were allowed to join Masonry.

Talking about the birth of Prince Hall, there are many rumors about it, and it’s been a debate for a long time. But if we take into consideration the records and papers that have been identified as his own in Barbados, then we come to know that rumor has it that he was born over there In 1748. 

But, you need to know that there is no record of his birth by the church or by the state. Nothing is to be found there, and none in Boston as well. All of the 11 countries that were searched and examined regarding his birth had no information about him. All the baptismal and church records were taken into consideration.

There are many rumors regarding his birth, but one of the significant ones is that Prince Hall was free born in British West Indies. About his family, it is stated that his father named as Thomas Prince Hall was an Englishman while his mother was a free colored woman who hailed from France.

In 1765 he traveled to Boston via a ship, where he worked as a leatherworker and it is also said that he learnt that skill from his father. At that time, he went on and married a girl named Sarah Ritchery. Right after their marriage, he had to face the loss of his wife’s death, who died when she was 24 years old. 

After 8 years he became a qualified to vote. He also pressed John Hancock to be given permission to join the Continental Army and he is considered one of those few black people who fought and took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

If we talk about him in the religious context, then he became a minister in African Methodist Episcopal Church with a charge give in Cambridge and he also fought for the eradication of slavery.

Some of this information and accounts are taken from the generally not appreciated Grimshaw book of 1903. Talking more about the Freemasonry that exists among the black men initiated while the War of Independence was taking place.

That’s when Prince Hailed and 14 other free black people were initiated into the Lodge that referred as # 441, Irish constitution, attached to the 38th Regiment of Foot, British Army Garrisoned at Castle Williams, which is now known as the Fort Independence, Boston Harbor on March 6, 1775. Back then, Sergeant John Bart was the Master of the Lodge. 

Prince Hall, along with the other freebie made masons were Cyrus Johnson, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Spain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Howard, and Richard Titley.

As soon as the British Army took a leave from Boston, the Lodge #441, given Prince Hall and his brethren an authoritative right to meet as a Lodge, to go in the procession on Saints John Day, and as bury the dead as the Lodge would do, but they were not allowed to confer degrees neither they were allowed to perform any other Masonic take.

For at least 9 years, these brethren, along with others who had achieved their degrees from anywhere else, assembled and exercised their restricted rights and privileges as Masons.

Finally, in 1784 Prince Hall filed a petition to the Grand Lodge of England via a Worshipful Master of a subordinate Lodge situated in London (William Moody of Brotherly Love Lodge # 55) for the purpose of issuing a warrant or charter.

Luckily the Warrant was given on September 29, 1784, in the name of African Lodge #459 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England.

The Lodge

One of the most important and significant document that is known to Prince Hall Masonic Fraternity is the Warrant to African Lodge # 459. The whole case of the free black men can be traced through this document and the legitimacy of the Masonic free black men rests on it.

The charter has been kept in safekeeping after it had been authenticated since it is the only charger that was originally issued by the Grand Lodge of England. It is still in possession of any Lodge in the United States of America.

the Grand Lodge of England
The Grand Lodge of England

In the 1790’s, the African Lodge got into arrears, and it was restricted from the rolls in 1813 after the Union even after it had tried to correspond in 1802 and 1806. After numerous communications, when there was no reply, the African Lodge renamed itself.

This was the declaration of the independence of the Lodge and it named itself the African Grand Lodge # 1. One of the most interesting incidents that shall not be left unnoticed is when the Massachusetts Lodges, which were also working as Provincial Grand Lodge declared themselves independence even when there were already Grand Lodges of Massachusetts in formed after the merger of two different lodges, the African Lodge was left uninvited to participate. Even when the African Lodge had the Warrant and it was valid as any other warrant.

When the Absalom Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made the appearance in Boston in the year of 1791, the demand of extending the Masonry arose. Absalom Jones was an ordained Episcopal priest and a mason; his interest lied in the establishment of a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia.

At the same time, the different delegation from Providence, Rhode Island, and New York arrived in order to establish The African Grand Lodge in the same year. As a result, Prince Hall was appointed as the Grand Master, and he service ended upon his death in the year of 1807.

After the death of Prince Hall, Nero Prince took his place as the Grand Master. Nero Prince sailed to Russia shortly after in the year of 1808, and George Middleton took his place. There were Petrert Lew, Samuel H. Moody, and John T. Hilton, who became the Grand Masters after Middleton. It was John T. Hilton who recommended the Declaration of Independence from the English Grand Lodge in the year of 1827. 

A fire erupted in the Grad Lodge headquarters of Massachusetts in 1869 and many precious records were burnt in flames. The charter itself was in its metal tube in the chest of the Grand Lodge. Due to the metal tube, the charter was left unburnt, but the heat did char the paper.

The one person who rescued the charter was the Grand Master S. T. Kendall himself. He risked his life, crawled inside the burning building, and saved the charter from getting completely destroyed. 

Due to the devotion and the bravery of the Grand Master, the history of the charter became even more interesting, and the sacred charter was protected. Since that incidence, the Charter # 459 has been enclosed in a heavy plate glass and has been kept of Downtown Boston bank. The vault is fireproof so that such a mishap does not get repeated.

The Grand Lodge of England once again extended an offer to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in 1946 but withdrew it. Finally, when the Prince Hall Grand Lodge filed a petition for recognition in 1994, the Grand Lodge of England accepted it. 

There were different reasons cited for this recognition. In an interview, Nicholas B. Locked, who was the Grand Master of Prince Hall from the year 1992 to 1994, said that one of the reasons for the recognition was that England had already accepted the White Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and it had the same jurisdiction as the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, making the territorial boundaries one of the reasons to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. 

A second reason was that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge had arrears that were to be paid to the Grand Lodge. A couple of hundred years ago, it was impossible to keep a check, and the dues that were to be paid to England were given to ship captains. It used to take months for ships to arrive. The money was lost till then, so it could be said that Prince Hall had not paid his dues.

The relations were finalized in June of 1996. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge has scattered 44 other Grand Lodges over the period of 212 years of its history. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge was finally recognized, so the subordinate lodges got the recognition automatically. Prince Hall has been buried in Charlestown naval yard cemetery in Northern Boston.