Prince Hall Freemasonry

Prince Hall Freemasonry, traditionally called “Black” Freemasonry by some, is of direct lineage from the Grand Lodge of England (1717). Prince Hall freemasonry was founded march 6, 1775, under the Irish Constitution of Masonry. Founded with 14 free black men, it met and they were initiated into Lodge #144 at Castle Williams (now Fort Independence) in Boston Harbor. A very good biography is here: Prince Hall died in 1807 at the age of 72. A year later, his lodge honored him by changing its name to Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

Prince Hall Freemasonry today is nearly as widespread as “regular” Freemasonry in the United States. It has grown within many communities as a social institution with a very large following in many cities. The separation of Prince Hall and Regular Freemasonry in America is likely an out-cropping of early ideas of slavery in America, which carried into the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th Century. The backward ideas of separation and unequally, like many institutions, pervaded Freemasonry too, and continued the ideas of separate but equal. With the passage of time, and the implementation of the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling, the ideas of mixed race meetings and membership has been slow in coming, but it is changing. In-roads were made to visit one another and relations were established.

Today, as the barriers continue to be torn down, the further integration of Prince Hall and regular Freemasonry continues. Granting a full charter in 1996, the Grand Lodge of England finally resolved all the roadblocks for full recognition. All regular state Grand Lodges have eradicated all prohibitions to membership from men of all races, making them open to men of all colors, creeds, and outlook. The only requirement being a proclaimed faith in God. There may be still some apprehension (from both sides) to openly admit that there has been some willing separation, but the invisible walls that have kept many apart are beginning to evaporate.

One of the biggest roadblocks to recognition is ritual differences and practices within a lodge. Freemasonry, being very firm on it’s ritual and it’s conduct, varies from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so recognition is spotty across the board, but firm locally. Here is a great link to recognition between states.

So what does that mean. Looking at Freemasonry as a whole, it is not a racially biased institution. In my state California, there is full recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry as being “regular” as decided though Grand Lodge legislation in 1995. Mutual recognition was agreed upon that year “completing the circle that Prince Hall started in 1784.”

There are states that have not reached that same conclusion for their own reasons, none of which I can proclaim knowledge of here. However both Freemasonry and Prince Hall Freemasonry are open to men of all races and welcomes them to share their light. Racism is not tolerated within the body of Freemasonry.

If you would like to add to this or have any questions, please let me know. My education is far from complete on the subject, and open to other insights. I present this as an opening message about the openness of Freemasonry and it’s future.

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~ by Greg on February 9, 2006.

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