SUBJECT: PRINCE HALL MASONRY 101
Attached is a document detailing the history of Prince Hall Masonry in an objective and factual manner that I lifted off the net. There is a lot more info there. I too was very surprised to find a parallel Masonry complete with Grand Lodge jurisdictions and appendant bodies existing side by side with the one I was initiated into. I live in Coffeyville Kansas, a relatively small town (pop 12,000) and had driven past the Prince Hall lodge building for thirty years and never saw it for what it was.
For many years Prince Hall (PH) Masonry was considered irregular and clandestine by most Grand Lodge (GL) jurisdictions and no doubt racial bias played a part in that consideration but in recent years many of our GL jurisdictions have recognized PH Masonry and in most cases there is mutual recognition of jurisdiction.
The Grand Lodge of Kansas has officially recognized the regularity of the charter of Prince Hall Masonry and our GL and theirs have had meetings to come to an agreement to officially recognize each grand jurisdiction as regular and occupying the same state. The agreement will come before both Grand Lodge assemblies for ratification this year and if passed will set PH masonry on equal basis with the other GL jurisdictions recognized by Kansas. Please note this is my understanding of the situation and I don't pretend to speak for either GL.
On a local level I asked permission of my lodge to arrange an informal meeting with the PH brethren in Coffeyville for the purpose of "breaking the ice" and starting a dialogue to see what if anything we had in common. They were agreeable. I arranged for a private room at a local restaurant and a slice of pie and beverage for refreshment. At their suggestion we limited the group to the current master of each lodge and three past masters. As expected in a town our size everyone in attendance knew at least one or more of the other group. We started out a little cold and slow but ended up talking over two hours about masonry in general, our concerns, where our respective GL's were heading, and had a very fun and informative time doing so. One thing came across loud and clear. They are very serious about their masonry, very proud of it, and hold it with great respect and in the highest regard.
If I can share any of our experience or information or be of any help please ask.
Respectfully, R.W. Terry W. Carter, PM Keystone Lodge #102
Coffeyville, KS, Grand Lecturer, M.W. Grand Lodge of Kansas
A Short History Of Prince Hall Masonry
Prince Hall is recognized as the Father of Black Masonry in the United States. He made it possible for us to also be recognized and enjoy all the privileges of free and accepted masonry.
Many rumors of the birth of Prince Hall have arisen. Few records and papers have been found of him either in Barbados where it was rumored that he was born, but no record of birth, by church, or state has been found there, and none in Boston.
One widely circulated rumor states that "prince Hall Was free born in the British West Indies. His Father, Thomas Prince Hall was an Englishman and his mother a free colored woman of French extraction. In 1765 he worked his passage on a ship to Boston where he worked as a leather worker, a trade learned from his father. Eight years later he became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) with a charge in Cambridge, ". This account paraphrased from the widely discredit Grimshaw book of 1903, is suspect in many areas.
Black Freemasonry began when Prince Hall and fourteen other free Black men were initiated into Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution, attached to the 38th Regiment of Foot, British Army Garrisoned at Castle Williams (now Fort Independence) Boston Harbor on March 1775. The Master of the Lodge was Sergeant John Batt. Along with Prince Hall, the other newly made masons were Cyrus Johnson,
Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruformm, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Howard and Richard Titley.
When the British Army left Boston, this Lodge No. 441 granted Prince Hall and his brethren authority to meet as a lodge, to go in procession on St. Johns Day, and as a Lodge to bury their dead; but they could not confer degrees nor perform any other Masonic "work". For nine years these brethren enjoyed their limited privileges as Masons. Finally in March 1784 Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, through a Worshipful Master of a subordinate Lodge in London
(William Moody of Brotherly Love Lodge No. 55) for a warrant or charter.
The Warrant to African Lodge No. 1 of Boston is the most significant and highly prize document known to the Prince Hall Masonic Fraternity. Through it our legitimacy is traced, and on it our case rests. It was granted on September 29, 1784 delivered, in Boston on April 29, 1787 By Captain James Scott, brother-in-law of John Hancock and mater of the Neptune, under its authority African Lodge No. 1 was organized one week later, May 6 1787.
The question of extending Masonry arose when Absalom Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania appeared in 1791 in Boston. He was an ordained Episcopal priest and mason who was interested in establishing a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia. Delegations also traveled from Providence, Rhode Island and New York to establish the African Grand Lodge that year. Prince Hall was appointed Grand Master, serving until his death in 1807.
Upon his death, Nero Prince became Grand Master. When Nero Prince sailed to Russia in 1808 George Middleton succeeded him. After Middleton, Petret Lew, Samuuel H.Moody and then John T. Hilton became Grand Master in 1827. Hilton recommended a Declaration of Independence from the English Grand Lodge.
In 1869 a fire destroyed Massachusetts' Grand Lodge headquarters and a number of its priceless records. The charter in its metal tube was in the Grand Lodge chest. The tube saved the charter from the flames, but the intense heat charred the paper. It was at this time that Grand Master S.T. Kendall crawled into the burning building and in peril of his life, saved the charter from complete destruction. Thus a Grand Master's devotion and heroism further consecrated this parchment to us, and added a further detail to its already interesting history. The original Charter No. 459 has long since been made secure between heavy plate glass and is kept in a fire-proof vault in a downtown Boston Bank.
Today the Prince Hall Masonic Fraternity has over 4,500 lodges worldwide, forming 45 independent jurisdictions with a membership of over 300,000 Masons.
Portions of this taken from: Prince Hall Masonic Directory 4th ed 1992.
Conference of Grand Master, Prince Hall Masons and Black Square and compass- 200 of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Page 8, Joseph A. Walkes Jr. 1979. Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co. Richmond, VA.