One of the interesting items that Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis introduced us to at our summer Grand Session of PHA Texas was the new Conference of Grand Masters PHA website. It is really quite well done.
There are two interactive maps where you can slide your cursor over a state and it will show you the Grand Master of that state or territory with his picture, website and E-Mail address. Another map will do the same thing for Grand Matrons and Grand Patrons . Both maps are also broken down into Regions and each Region is also part of the information included in a visit to each state.
When the Grand Masters meet, the Grand Matrons and Grand Patrons also meet at the same time and place. Including the women with the men in joint but separate gatherings is a constant theme in Prince Hall Masonry. Not so on the Mainstream side.
The website has a center picture which changes, a touch of Masonic art and symbolism and good color. It also has a fair amount of information. You can learn about the origin of Prince Hall Masonry and the origin of the Adoptive Rite among Black women. Another click will show you all the Grand Lodge websites list alphabetically. Other tabs will bring you to PHA charities and to other Masonic links.
But what I enjoy seeing on the site most of all is the spelling out of the Purpose of the Grand Masters conference along with pictures of the officers and a breakdown of regional heads. Along with the Purpose are listed also the Objectives for the Grand Masters and Grand Matrons and Grand Patrons.
The Prince Hall Site gives you the feeling of some tight bonding among the different jurisdictions. It also sets a definite agenda while at the same time allowing some time for position papers.
Taking a look at the Mainstream Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America, Inc. I see a site that doesn’t seem to want to show off Masonry, doesn’t emphasize togetherness, is less informational and not quite so elegant.
Brother Red Mitchell of Norton Massachusetts was a prime mover on the committee to erect the monument to Prince Hall on the Cambridge common. His hard work and perseverance to see the project completed was noticed by the Sun Chronicle who wrote this article titled, “Rediscovering A Hero”, about him and that auspicious occasion.
Norton man’s efforts help honor Prince Hall
Prince Hall was an American patriot, entrepreneur and civil rights activist whose name is considerably less well known than his contemporaries John Hancock and George Washington.
But thanks in part to the efforts of a Norton resident, the life and deeds of the African-American Masonic and educational leader may one day be recounted with the same reverence as those of Martin Luther King and Booker T. Washington.
Cambridge officials unveiled a monument to Hall Saturday on the city common, the same spot where George Washington took command of the Continental Army in 1775.
Red T. Mitchell, a Mason and Norton resident, helped promote the idea of a memorial to a man he calls one of America’s civil rights leaders.
A series of five granite slabs quarried in Africa that form the monument are inscribed with some of Hall’s writings and the biography of the man who agitated against slavery and created the first school for black children in Boston. Mitchell says Hall is also symbolic of African Americans’ role in American independence, which has long been shrouded in history.
Many who have recently delved deeply into the history of Prince Hall, the man, see this African American, not only as the leader of Colonial Black Freemasonry in America but also as A FOUNDING FATHER OF THIS NATION.
Recently Brother Mitchell penned an essay further exemplifying his thoughts on the impact of Prince Hall.
Reflections after watching a Documentary about Jackie Robinson
Red Mitchell July 9, 2010 Norton MA.
Great men and moments in history are not always immediately recognized. Such is the story of Jackie Robinson. Upon reflection of his first game as a major league Baseball player, the tremendous impact it had on race relations led to the comment that, “he is second only to Martin Luther King, Jr. in being the most important black man to have lived in America”. This may be true in the memory of those who are alive at this time. The personal attacks which each endured were sacrificial as if paying the price for a greater opportunity for their people.
I beg you to consider these quotes. “Your Honors need not to be informed that a Life of Slavery, like that of your petitioners, deprived of every social privilege, of every thing requisite to render Life even tolerable, is far worse than non-existence”. And then this, “Patience, I say, for were we not possess’d of a great measure of it you could not bear up under the daily insults you meet with in the streets of Boston”.
These quotes are on the Memorial honoring the Black Patriots of the revolutionary period of our nation erected on the Cambridge Common. They are the words of Prince Hall, the principal character of the monument, representing all those unknown and forgotten African-Americans who participated and contributed to the founding of our nation.
Emancipation, or the abolition of slavery in America, is often associated with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil war. We must know that prior to the Revolutionary war, each of the original thirteen colonies had legal slavery. During the eight-year period of the Revolutionary war, slavery as a legal entity in the northern colonies was essentially abolished.
This first “emancipation” was greatly influenced by the many Americans of African ancestry participating in the war, (July 1781 at White Plains NY, twenty-five percent of the American Army were Negroes.) Prince Hall, called the “First black organizer in American History” and “Boston’s most prominent black in the era of the Revolution” was described in this way. ”Prince Hall, an African, and a person of great influence upon his Colour in Boston, being the Master of the African Lodge, and a person to whom they refer with confidence their principal affairs”.
PS: Didn’t Boston have the “first shot” in acquiring Jackie Robinson as a baseball player?
Forgotten Patriots African Americans and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War. Daughters of the American Revolution
The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800, Sidney Kaplan
“After some digging, they uncovered pieces of, what they believe to be, a ceremonial sword and a knife from the Rosewood Masonic Lodge, also known as Magnolia Lodge. One of the men helping Dunn was a Mason, and “he knew immediately what they were.” Dunn said finding the artifacts finally gives researchers an idea of the location of the pivotal building.”
Rosewood was a quiet, primarily black, self-sufficient whistle stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Spurred by unsupported accusations that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a black drifter, white men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident. When black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting for black people, and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. Survivors hid for several days in nearby swamps and were evacuated by train and car to larger towns. Although state and local authorities were aware of the violence, they made no arrests for the activities in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by black residents during the attacks. None ever returned.
As depicted in the film, the Masonic lodge was the central building in the community that served many functions. Its also believed that many of the men living in the Rosewood community were Masons, making the find an exciting one on several levels.
It all started with somebody who was willing to break the code of mutual support…………no matter the deed. Most Worshipful Terry W. Posey writes on his blog:
“Frank Haas is a Judge in West Virginia and until several years ago was Grand Master of West Virginia. The story of his being expelled from the Grand Lodge of West Virginia is well-documented in various Masonic and other publications. I have reviewed as many as were available, including West Virginia’s Proceedings, the New York Times and www.masonic-crusade.com .”
“He moved to Ohio last year. After that, he petitioned Steubenville Lodge # 45 for the degrees of Freemasonry.”
“I thoroughly researched the Code of the Grand Lodge of Ohio and there is nothing to prevent his receiving these degrees. Inasmuch as he is an Ohio resident, the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Ohio confers jurisdiction over his membership to the Grand Lodge of Ohio and the lodge’s membership.”
“He made a full disclosure of the Notice of Expulsion by the Past Grand Master of West Virginia and answered all questions presented to him by the Lodge’s Committee of Investigation. The Lodge did the necessary background work, including a home visit. They were assured that he was a good man and true, and he met all requirements, including residency for the requisite time, for membership.”
“Steubenville Lodge # 45 gave a unanimous ballot approving his membership.”
“On April 17, he received the three degrees of Freemasonry in Steubenville Lodge.” http://gmohio.blogspot.com/2010/04/frank-haas.html – page archive
The response was for the Grand Lodge of West Virginia to withdraw recognition of Ohio. The Grand Lodge of Ohio’s website reports it thusly:
“The Grand Master of West Virginia, Gregory A. Riley, Sr., issued an edict on April 19, 2010 withdrawing fraternal recognition from the Grand Lodge of Ohio because Steubenville Lodge No. 45 elected Frank Haas to membership and conferred the three degrees of Masonry on him on Saturday, April 17, 2010.”
If West Virginia can withdraw recognition of Ohio so quickly and easily, why is it that some of the Grand Lodges in the United States who are really doing a wonderful job have not withdrawn recognition from West Virginia, clearly a rogue Grand Lodge, a long time ago? It seems to me that only the bad guys have the chutzpah to take action.
And if the Conference of Grand Masters is truly our national voice in American Freemasonry why has it not voted on a proposal to withdraw recognition from those Grand Lodges who trample on the civil rights of their Brethren and who refuse to recognize Prince Hall?
Why is it that American Freemasonry refuses to police itself? Are we waiting for the civil courts to step in? Do we really think that the actions of one Grand Lodge has no bearing on the public’s perception of all of American Freemasonry? Are we going to stand by and do nothing while one after another after another of these incidents of tyrannical power gone amuck , these actions of Right Wing Masonic Militia take place?
Will there be any national response to the plight of Derek Gordon?
The Beehive will wait to see further developments as this may be one of many battles to come. Widely rumored in Prince Hall circles is the story that the UGLE is seriously considering withdrawing recognition from all American Grand Lodges who refuse to recognize Prince Hall.
The true story about “un-Masonic conduct*” of a respectful brother.
By: Brother Derek Gordon Last updated on: April 5, 2010.
“After much reflection, I have concluded that the true crime for which the Grand Master wishes to accuse me has come to light. And it is a violation that I take no shame in committing.”
“As my brethren around the world have now seen, I did not provide secret information on the Sebastian Lodge website but used information from other Arkansas lodges and as well as the Grand Lodge itself. The Grand Master’s claim has been defeated by the massive trove of evidence gathered by many Masonic brethren in support of me.”
“As I was denied my right to due process, I am left to my own devices to determine why on this great earth and in this great country I would considered for expulsion. And then it occurred to me…what my violation will be. In a conversation with Grand Master Warren Martin I spoke of attending lodges in the presence of Black Masons. I openly shared my reflection of the warm conversations we had. The lodges were not in Arkansas but rather in 2 other states as well as overseas. All were mainstream lodges. I have not been invited to a Prince Hall Lodge; however, because of this process I can say that I would be honored to do so.”
“I realize now that I overlooked one of the most obvious arguments. I gave the Masonic handshake (and another common sign of brotherly affection) to well over twenty Black Masons. I have sat in lodge with at least thirty Black Masons. I have spoken with a Prior Grand Master of a Prince Hall jurisdiction. I have long-running Masonic relations with several Black Masons who served with me in the United States Air Force. They are some of my dearest friends and brothers.”
“The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states: “The…use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter…use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry.”
“There is only one possible way to accuse me of violating the above quote from my Notice of Trial letter. Simply put, I would have to be accused of knowingly sitting in a lodge, mainstream aside, with Black Masons. And, being that the brothers were Black Masons, it is reasonable in the eyes of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to assume those men must be Prince Hall. I must humbly point out to the Arkansas leadership that Black men can be Mainstream or Prince Hall; Arkansas tends to frown upon certain races, religions, or origins, yet this does not mean that all other Mainstream jurisdictions must act as a unified bigot. “
“These United States have stood in solidarity against tyranny for greater than nearly 250 years. The Civil War and great Abraham Lincoln brought emancipation to all nearly 150 years ago. Just over 50 years ago, Arkansas was at the epicenter of the death of segregation when “the Little Rock 9” entered a high school for white students supported by the 101st Airborne Division. How can it be that Arkansas is one of the three states that still forces segregation of the brotherhood? Why is this tolerated? Who will stand up to such hatred? “
“Let your voices be heard along with mine. Tell Grand Master Martin Warren and Grand Secretary James Weatherall what is truly “for the good of the Masonry**.” As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called out “Let Freedom Ring” and this time let it ring from the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas. “
“Whether the Grand Master still believes that my expulsion is “for the good of the Masonry” is for him to determine. In my heart and with a clear conscience, I can say that I will always hold the values of the Free Masons… the truly “free” Masons.”
* I stand accused of “un-Masonic conduct” for reasons that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to delineate. The Grand Inquisitor (Chairmen, Grand Lodge Trial Commission), John Penrod, was kind enough to inform me that I must determine the causes of action the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has against me. And, the Inquisitor refused to provide materials that might shed light on such issues.
** The Grand Master assured the Worshipful Master and other brethren of Sebastian Lodge that revoking its charter, and my expulsion, was “for the good of Masonry.” I would disagree with that statement; but, I’m unworthy in their eyes of being a Mason.
Added note: The phone call discussing Prince Hall Masonry with the Grand Master of Arkansas took place on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23P.M. CST.
I checked out of the motel and dressed in my travel clothes and then I checked in to Grand Lodge at 8:30 Sunday morning for a send off worship service. The Grand Session of the MWPHGL of Arkansas started with a worship service and ended with one. God is in charge and Prince Hall Arkansas recognizes that.
A young guest preacher Reverend Coleman delivered a sermon based on Exodus. We learn from scripture that God parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross over on dry land. Yet Pharaoh and his hosts who pursued Moses and his band were deluged by the sea. The Israelites were praising God that day yet three days later they were thirsty and without water. When they found a pond of water on the third day and it was bitter and undrinkable they complained to God and bad mouthed Him.
Reverend Coleman asked us all how we handle our bitter moments. He told us that in every adversity there was a lesson to be learned. What we should be doing, said Reverend Coleman, is thanking and praising God not only in the joyous occasions of our lives but also in the distressful, sorrowful moments of our lives.
A final goodbye from Grand Worthy Matron Winnie Ruth Johnson and a hug from Grand Master Cleveland K. Wilson and I hit the road for Texas.
But this brings to mind some final observations of how this experience like my experience with the MWPHGL of Texas differs from my experience with Mainstream Masonry.
Mainstream Masonry could learn a thing or two from Prince Hall. There is room in Freemasonry for the closeness that is fostered when leaders and member are not afraid or prohibited by protocol from expressing their emotions in all matters, in their love for God and in their love for one another.
Mainstream Masonry it seems must always follow a set pattern, a pre-laid out plan of practice, procedure and decorum. Decorum becomes what is prim and proper and suffers no deviation. The script has been written and no adlibs are allowed.
Prince Hall Masonry is much more free flowing while still following established rules of order. It allows for deviation from the script and the expression of feelings that comes from the enthusiasm and excitement of gathering together in Brotherhood. It allows for the interjection of humor, of explanation in the middle of ritual and the binding together with the addition of many prayers and much song.
This more open, more expressive style of Masonry is a sharp contrast with the Masonry of the stiff upper lip, of seriousness and solemnity always and the insistence of no deviation from the script.
Ultimately the choice is what moves your heart. I have decided that stodgy Masonry is not my cup of tea!
Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to know or read about Ezekiel M. Bey. In that case you have missed a great man. And if that is the case it is time for you to get acquainted with this Prince Hall Mason.
Brother Bey is Founder and Administrator of Blue Lite, a popular national Prince Hall Research Discussion Group. He is also the RW Grand Historian of the MWPHGL of New York.
Born in Harlem, Bey attended public schools in Queens. In his early education his passion was drawing pictures and writing stories and poems. He was an active participant in church starting at the young age of 13 where he served as a Counselor and as member of the men’s choir.
His later education concentrated on business and computer science, which has ultimately led him to the position as Operations Manager of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York and then a promotion to Director of Environmental Services.
Bey has been married for 21 years and has five beautiful children. In 1990 he joined what proved to be a clandestine bogus Masonic Lodge. He corrected that error in 1997 when he left clandestine Masonry for the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York.
Bey’s Masonic biography is long and well traveled. Some of the highlights include Editor of New York’s Grand Lodge Magazine The Prince Hall Sentinel, a Special DDGM, Grand Historian, member of Grand Lodge Committees of Masonic Education and Work & Lecture, Fellow of the Phylaxis Society, member of the Philalethes Society, Associate Researcher for the Charles H. Wesley Society and the first Prince Hall Mason in the state of New York to be awarded the honor of the Masonic Brotherhood of The Blue Forget-Me-Not.
His personal biography has this to add:
Bey Receiving Distinguished Service Award
“As a student of the late Joseph A. Walkes Jr., Ezekiel learned much, and today to the Masonic world Ezekiel M. Bey is an avid researcher and historian of Masonic studies. He has done extensive research in the Schomburg Library, New York City; does correspondence research with the Masonic Iowa Library, Cedar Rapid, Iowa; the Livingston Library, New York City; and has worked and collaborated with many research societies and other repositories of Masonic information. For two consecutive Masonic administrations under M.W. Bernard L. Holley, GM, Ezekiel has been appointed in positions in which he has held four patents at one time (Grand Historian, Secretary of The Committee on Masonic Education, Member of Work & Lectures & Masonic Editor of the Prince Hall Sentinel (2006-2008).”
Brother Bey has published numerous works on Freemasonry. He is about to release his newest book: Bogus Masonic Outfits, The Silent Killer In Prince Hall.
With the author’s permission here is a taste of that book.
Regularity for many is not a focal point due to their unawareness nor is it of any importance to them. Many have no clue what it really means. In the search for truth, we must investigate all the parameters that make up the subject we are to discuss for consideration. Certain standards must be used for guidelines in which to measure the legality of any organization’s regularity. In this case it’s Freemasonry amongst African Americans in this country. Freemasonry has been established centuries ago by the use of Ancient Landmarks, Ancient Charges, Constitutions, and many unwritten laws. Taking basic attributes that make up regularity such as establishing Lodges from a “competent jurisdiction empowering it to work”.
In this search you will find that bodies calling themselves “Masonic” are not all that they seem to be. I have found that many are sympathetic with bogus outfits that appear genuine in appearance, and indeed many illegal Masons are innocent of the origin of the organization they have joined. In other words, the majority does not know any better. I have personally been a victim of this. But you also have those Prince Hall Masons and other regular Masons who know the truth, and yet make excuses in order to personally accept fraudulent organization within their circles. There are many reasons for this. I have seen the politics involved for personal gains, whether it is material or merely acceptance in certain arenas.
Many excuses made by regular Masons on behave of bogus Masonic orders are, that they are “black” people like us, that they belong to our churches, that they are family members, and some have verbally shown the sad ignorance of saying, “they practice the same thing we do”. “Common sense is not always common”, for if that statement were not true, many would simply understand that “If I were a student of medicine for 2 ½ years, and decided to drop out of medical school to start a medical practice before I have graduated and gotten my medical license, no matter how many lives I save, I would not legally be a doctor”. “If I were a Police Officer and was suspended or thrown off the force, and decided to rent a building and called it a precinct, with squad cars, guns, badges, uniforms, and all the paraphernalia that is required for Police Officers or precinct, it would still not make me legal”. In fact, you will be arrested for impersonating a Police Officer and Police Department.
Society from time immemorial has established a common rule for the genesis of organizations, governments, and civilizations, and that is that the founders, or originators of an organization or government, establishes the criteria and rules for those who wish to be part of it. When one wishes to join an organization it must follow the rules of that organization in order for it to be regular. What surprises me is the failure to preserve our dignity as Prince Hall Masons, by associating our selves with bogus Masonic organizations. I grew up in an area in New York City that as a youth I learned very quickly the respect one must have for organizations (gangs) and the originators of these neighborhood groups. One could not easily enter into a territory claimed originally by these crews. It was not easy for trespassers to think they can discover a land occupied by the natives of block. If a block (street) was violated, or the name of the group was illegally used or stolen, or if certain clothes that identify the posse were worn by invaders, this was a declaration of war.
We speak and recite the legendary drama of our Ancient Grand Master H**** A****, and how he gave up his life, but refused to give up his integrity. I feel many of us have not learned the lesson of our integrity. Many of us are handing over our integrity, but what we must understand is that it is not only our personal integrity, but also the integrity of our Fraternity. You cannot just set up an Elks Lodge and not be faced with resistance from legally established Elks Lodges, the same with the Loins Clubs, Rotaries, Knights of Columbus, and many other organizations. What has happened to us?
In a soon coming compendium, I will attempt to show that we need to step back and rethink our position. My research has been intense, with many hours of study and reading, as well as traveling to find the truth about illegal Masonic bodies.
I pray that some-day, we will all, UNIVERSALLY, understand regularity.
And I mean, regular Masons as well as those outside the circle (Bogus Outfits).
The GREAT DEBATE, will soon take place.
This is an issue that is troublesome to Prince Hall Masonry and one that it is trying to combat through education and the dissemination of correct information.
The GREAT DEBATE was supposed to take place at the Phylaxis National Convention in Arkansas on March 6th. Unfortunately Brother Bey has pressing family matters to take care of and that challenging discussion has been rescheduled for later in the spring in New York.
The Beehive will keep you informed of further developments.
The Senior Deacon goes to the door, “Let them enter.
Spontaneously 53 Fellowcrafts break into song,
Send it on down
Send it on down
Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down
Heavenly Father hear our call
And let your Holy Spirit fall
Send it on down
Send it on down
Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down
You are Holy
Oh so Holy
Send it on down
Send it on down
Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down.
…as they march in and perambulate around the Lodge room
The ceremony of the 3rd degree had begun. It was Friday night at Grand Lodge Session and the business of the hour was a mass raising at Grand Lodge.
If you are a Mason and you haven’t seen this done before you have missed a sight to behold. There is electricity in the air as the questions are asked in the First Section and 53 answers returned whose volume of response rattle the Square & Compasses on the altar. And when all is done in this first part of the degree, 53 voices ring out with “Come Along and Get on Board and Ride This Train” as they march around the Lodge and then back out.
And if you haven’t seen 53 Brothers all supine at the same time spread across the Grand Lodge Room, you haven’t felt the power of spiritual community. Then your heart knows that you are in a place of oneness, of unity, of peace, harmony and accord.
That was the main course and if that’s all there was we would have concluded the evening well satiated. But desert was on the menu and a scrumptious one at that. Prince Hall in colonial dress capped off the ceremony with a charge he first gave in 1797 to the African Lodge in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Beloved Brethren of the African Lodge:
“It is now five years since I delivered a charge to you on some parts and points of masonry. As one branch or superstructure of the foundation, I endeavored to show you the duty of a mason to a mason, and of charity and love to all mankind, as the work and image of the great God and the Father of the human race. I shall now attempt to show you that it is our duty to sympathise with our fellow-men under their troubles, and with the families of our brethren who are gone, we hope, to the Grand Lodge above.”
“We are to have sympathy, but this, after all, is not to be confined to parties or colors, nor to towns or states, nor to a kingdom, but to the kingdoms of the whole earth, over whom Christ the King is head and grand master for all in distress.”
“Among these numerous sons and daughters of distress, let us see our friends and brethren; and first let us see them dragged from their native country, by the iron hand of tyranny and oppression, from their dear friends and connections, with weeping eyes and aching hearts, to a strange land, and among a strange people, whose tender mercies are cruel,—and there to bear the iron yoke of slavery and cruelty, till death, as a friend, shall relieve them. And must not the unhappy condition of these, our fellow-men, draw forth our hearty prayers and wishes for their deliverance from those merchants and traders, whose characters you have described in Revelation xviii. 11-13? And who knows but these same sort of traders may, in a short time, in like manner bewail the loss of the African traffic, to their shame and confusion? The day dawns now in some of the West India Islands. God can and will change their condition and their hearts, too, and let Boston and the world know that He hath no respect of persons, and that bulwark of envy, pride, scorn and contempt, which is so visible in some, shall fall.”
“Now, my brethren, nothing is stable; all things are changeable. Let us seek those things which are sure and steadfast, and let us pray God that, while we remain here, he would give us the grace of patience, and strength to bear up under all our troubles, which, at this day, God knows, we have our share of. Patience, I say; for were we not possessed of a great measure of it, we could not bear up under the daily insults we meet with in the streets of Boston, much more on public days of recreation. How, at such times, are we shamefully abused, and that to such a degree, that we may truly be said to carry our lives in our hands, and the arrows of death are flying about our heads. “
“My brethren, let us not be cast down under these and many other abuses we at present are laboring under,—for the darkest hour is just before the break of day. My brethren, let us remember what a dark day it was with our African brethren, six years ago, in the French West Indies. Nothing but the snap of the whip was heard, from morning to evening. Hanging, breaking on the wheel, burning, and all manner of tortures, were inflicted on those unhappy people. But, blessed be God, the scene is changed. They now confess that God hath no respect of persons, and therefore, receive them as their friends, and treat them as brothers. Thus doth Ethiopia stretch forth her hand from slavery, to freedom and equality. “
I was very proud that my Lodge, Pride of Mt. Pisgah #`135 had three new Master Masons raised at this Grand Lodge Sessions, three Brothers we all in the Lodge had worked hard with and who had in turn applied themselves assiduously.
But we weren’t done yet. That was only day one of Winter Session which is half as long as the four day Summer Session. Saturday morning’s Grand Session reconvened and the Grand Master was escorted in and received in proper fashion. The Grand Lodge conducted its business and heard reports from many of its committees. Almost all of that is private information that cannot be shared. But I can tell you that Prince Hall Texas voted favorably on mutual recognition with Mainstream California and Mainstream Connecticut.
After the business of the Grand Lodge was completed we broke into workshops and presentations. I viewed four interesting informational presentations. One was on Real Estate and mortgages. The second was a demonstration of a Masonic burial service. The third a presentation of a new data base system being developed for Grand Lodge whereby we would be operating our own servers.
The fourth workshop was given by a member of my Lodge. PM Kazar LaGrone gave us a lecture and Power Point slide show on the Masonic Library of Iowa
After lunch we had a presentation by the Deputy Grand Master Michael T. Anderson on Masonic catechism. He tuned us all up.
We topped off the day with two stirring presentations. The first was given by the Grand Chaplain. His theme was The whole is greater than the sum total of its parts. He told us that the key word was SYNERGY, working together to achieve a greater good. The problem is, he said, that we have steam shovel ability but we are doing teaspoon work. He left us with the thought that we can achieve much when we don’t care who gets the credit.
The second and final address to the Grand Lodge was by the Grand Historian who led us in a journey, bringing us down from Boston, Providence and Philadelphia into Kansas and from Kansas into Texas where Prince Hall Texas was born. Lodges were chartered by Captain W.D. Mathews, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Kansas and after the Civil War Norris Wright Cuney, who had been mentored by Mathews, was elected the first Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas when it was formed in Brenham, Texas. Cuney was a noted community leader and Republican politician in the Galveston area and our Grand Historian also intertwined the political and economic conditions into the journey noting the contributions of Black Freemasons in freeing the bonds of slavery, addressing the needs of Reconstruction and paving the wave for a new vision of a day when we all work together with the very same tools. When he finished we all felt as if we had been on that 40 year trek. There was really nothing left to be said and to thunderous applause and the love of his Brothers, the Grand Historian retired upon which the Grand Lodge promptly closed.
Afterward many of us gathered in the lobby to take pictures of the massive collection of toys for Christmas children and the members of the Prince Hall family who were responsible for this heartwarming program.
Another year has gone by in Freemasonry, one of great inspiration and the development of good men and the introduction of many new ones. The job is never completed. We enter the 2010 year again spreading light, one man at a time.
Alton G. Roundtree is a Past Master of Redemption Lodge #24, the largest Lodge in the Washington D.C. Prince Hall Jurisdiction. He has served his Grand Lodge as Computer Systems Officer, Director of Public Relations, Chairman of the Information Management Committee, Assistant Grand Secretary, Director of the Computer Training Center, Editor of the Masonic Digest and Vice Chairman of the Prince Hall Recognition committee. He has received numerous awards from his Grand Lodge, including Master Mason of the Year, Journalistic Excellence Award, Perfect Ashlar Award, and many superior service awards. Presently he is Vice President of KLR Publishing. He is also President and Editor-in-Chief of the Masonic Globe, a very highly regarded worldwide Masonic magazine.
Paul M. Bessel is Past Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. He has served his Grand Lodge well and often as Chairman of the following committees:
Library & Museum Committee
Internet Website Committee
Masonic Recognition Committee
Masonic Education Committee
His Grand Lodge has awarded him the coveted Valentine Reintzel Award.
He is the Executive Secretary of the Allen E. Roberts Masonic Leadership Center and Past President of the Library & Museum Association, founding member and Past Master of the Civil War Lodge of Research #1865, a “Fellow” of the Scottish Rite Research Society, one of 40 “Fellows” of the Philalethes Society, Past District Deputy Grand Master for Research Lodges in Virginia, a Past Grand Lodge Officer of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, and a Board member of the Masonic Brotherhood of the Blue-Forget-Me-Not. Brother Bessel is known as “Mr. Masonic Computer Man” having founded and moderated E-Mail message groups for Masonic Education, D.C. Masons, D.C. Scottish Rite and others. He owns and operates one of the largest Masonic information websites in the entire USA
Out of the Shadows revolves around two main themes,
The National Compact or National Grand Lodge
Recognition by Mainstream Masonry
Woven around and through these two themes is the history of Prince Hall Freemasonry in the USA.
The book does have a brief chapter on Prince Hall the man but goes out of its way to make a point that the biography of Prince Hall that most Prince Hall Masons are used to reading including his birth at Bridgetown, Barbados, British West Indies was a figment of Prince Hall author William H. Grimshaw’s imagination and has been disputed by many following Prince Hall scholars including Wesley and Walkes. This assessment will play an important part in the National Compact controversy, as we shall soon see.
The National Compact or National Grand Lodge
The National Grand Lodge, say Roundtree and Bessel played a huge part in the expansion of Colored Freemasonry. For sixty years prior to the establishment of the National Grand Lodge, only three independent colored Grand Lodges had been established that could claim their heritage from African Grand Lodge #459. These Grand Lodges were the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Boston, Massachusetts; the First Independent African Grand Lodge of North America (Pennsylvania); and Boyer Grand Lodge (New York). Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is usually included but it was irregular until healed at the 1847 convention where these four ratified the National Compact. The National Grand Lodge established nearly all 22 of the Negro Grand Lodges founded between 1847-1878.
Roundtree and Bessel say that the National Grand Lodge was formed for several reasons – to help stamp out irregular and clandestine Negro Freemasonry, to have one ritual for all jurisdictions and to help guide Prince Hall Masonry into an ever-upward accomplishment.
The National Compact never functioned without discord and in essence it did not work well. But these authors credit the National Grand Lodge with spreading Negro Freemasonry across the better part of the USA. “Outside of Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, Negro Freemasonry was at a standstill in 1847”, say Roundtree and Bessel. “Not until after the establishment of the National Grand Lodge was an impetus given to the growth of Colored Freemasonry”, they added.
From 1847 to 1877/78 The National Grand Lodge functioned in a manner of questioned competence but few disputed its legality or authority. But as the years went by many Grand Lodges withdrew from the Compact until by 1878 it was a much-diminished body. Those that withdrew were known as Independent, Sovereign or States Rights Grand Lodges.
It was after 1878 that the controversy over its status became a contentious and divisive issue that is still with us today. And Roundtree and Bessel are quick to point out that Prince Hall Masons as well as Mainstream Masons have little knowledge of the history of the National Compact, have not studied all the issues surrounding the controversy and refuse to even talk about it.
In a nutshell the controversy centers on whether the National Grand Lodge was legally dissolved and then illegally reconstituted itself thus becoming irregular and clandestine. This is the position that Prince Hall Grand Lodges take today based mainly on the word of Grimshaw who wrote that such dissolution was voted upon and ratified by the necessary majority at a National Convention and the National Compact was disbanded. But some of what Grimshaw has written, as we have already seen, has been discredited and basing this conclusion solely on one man’s discredited word is not acceptable policy say the authors. In so doing they say, Prince Hall Freemasonry is treating the National Compact as predominately white Freemasonry treated it.
What Roundtree and Bessel are saying is that while disbandonment was a proposal in 1878 it never was voted upon and approved. While it may have been wishful thinking that took on a life of its own it never really had a basis in fact because it was never ratified. What the authors say is that, “ It appears that William H. Grimshaw might have taken unofficial resolutions from the Chicago convention that were supposed to be returned to the Grand Lodges for ratification and made them official.” Further investigation performed by these experienced researchers and esteemed journalists point to numerous references in the proceedings of Prince Hall Independent Grand Lodge minutes from 1877 on alluding to the continued existence of the National Compact with no mention of its dissolution.
If this be true then the ramifications are enormous. If the National Compact was never dissolved, and because it was constituted by Grand Lodges tracing their lineage to African Lodge #459 and thus was their offspring, then PHO today cannot be declared irregular or clandestine. The charge against PHO of reforming itself illegally can be reversed against those PHA Lodges that withdrew from The Compact. For if they withdrew and reconstituted themselves then they are clandestine. This argument can be likened to a dog chasing its tail – around and around in circles getting nowhere.
Roundtree and Bessel pull no punches in their condemnation of Prince Hall Masonry today when they say in conclusion, “Without the National Grand Lodge some of today’s Prince Hall Grand Lodges might never have existed! They knew no life other than the National Grand Lodge. They had no other source early in life. Seemingly, they grew up, left home and denounced their parents. Leaders and members of Prince Hall Grand Lodges speak of the National Grand Lodge with total disdain as something that should never have happened, not addressing or even realizing the fact that it is the source of their existence! Many histories of the Grand Lodges that declared their independence from the National Grand Lodge make a brief mention of being a part of the National Grand Lodge.”
Rroundtree and Bessel start us off with this thought.
“One could argue that Masonic recognition of Prince Hall Lodges in the United States is late compared to other institutions; however, unlike the integration process of other institutions, Prince Hall recognition in America comes without legislation, new laws, protests, social uprising, demands for rights, or widespread public accusations of racism. The effort to obtain recognition is not spearheaded by a social action organization. Public accusations by Prince Hall Masons of Masonic rights violations have not been noted. Recognition is truly voluntary because no one is begging or demanding.”
“America was a society in which the south and other regions functioned under Jim Crow Laws, Black codes and legal segregation until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. From 1870 to 1964 it would have been a violation of civil law in virtually all of the southern states and some of the northern states to recognize Prince Hall Masonry, which would have encompassed assembling, and the social acceptance of blacks. Recognition was probably not going to happen before 1968 (last of Civil Rights Acts), and not be overturned, because of the segregation laws and racial tension in America.”
Out of the Shadows answers the question what is recognition?
An acknowledgment that the Grand Lodge is regular (not clandestine or irregular) and practices Freemasonry in accordance with established landmarks.
An acknowledgment that each Grand Lodge is sovereign
Opens the lines of communication between the Grand Lodges for fraternal cooperation
Allows members of Lodges in each Grand Lodge to visit Lodges in the other Grand Lodge to the same extent, and under the same conditions, as members of Lodges in any other Grand Lodge that is recognized by them. The Corpus Juris guidelines for visiting foreign jurisdictions would apply.
In the case of American Freemasonry, it is also an acknowledgment that the two sovereign Grand Lodges (Prince Hall and Caucasian) can exist in the same territory as two separate entities with total control over their respective Craft.
Also explained are the guidelines for determining if a Grand Lodge is regular which both Mainstream and Prince Hall accept. A Grand Lodge must:
be regular in its origin
be truly independent and self-governing
adhere to landmarks
obligations must be taken on or in full view of the Volume of the Sacred Law
it must display the three Great Lights of Freemasonry when it or its Lodges are open
discussions of religion and politics in its Lodges must be prohibited, and:
its membership must be male, and must have nothing to do with mixed or women’s Lodges
its brethren must believe in a Supreme Being
The Book devotes a number of Chapters to recognition looking at the subject from many angles.
It devotes a chapter to Prince Hall writers from Martin Delaney, William Grimshaw, Lewis Hayden, Harry A. Williamson, Harry E. Davis, Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. and many others.
It devotes another chapter to the blackball, its effect on the admittance of Negroes into Mainstream Lodges and some modifications adopted in various jurisdictions to overcome the abuse.
The chapter on Objections to Recognition is most interesting. It starts with 20 FAQ about recognition. Then it moves into a detailed analysis of The American Doctrine, The Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction, which we will learn more about later. Then it lists all the statements about why Prince Hall cannot be recognized as written in the Grand Lodge minutes of various Mainstream Grand Lodges in chronological order. Just to mention a few:
1818/19 New York– The Grand Lodge of New York issues a decree of non-intercourse with Negro Lodges.
1867 Delaware – A portion of the Obligation in the degree of Master Mason stated that the initiation or visitation: …..”of any Negro, mulatto, or colored person of the United States is forbidden…….This prohibition shall be an obligation and taught in the third degree.”
1874 Texas – Acting Grand Master R.W. Bro. Bramlette devotes considerable space to the Negro, and believes he is by nature unfit material for Masonry, and adds, “No cultivation, and I might say, no manipulation by fanatics can raise him to the dignity of social and brotherly recognition in our Lodges.”
1909 Mississippi – From the Grand Master’s Address: “The Negro in our land is unfit to assume the responsibilities and obligations of Masonry. It is an open secret that virtue and morality, which are indispensable qualifications to membership, are foreign to the race. I felt it my duty as your Grand Master to cut loose from any who would dare open the door of Masonry to a people whose standing for virtue and morality is a mockery to civilization.”
1912 Illinois – A Past Master of a Lodge, together with a Past Senior Warden and another member, assisted as pallbearers at the funeral of a Negro Mason. The Past Master was expelled from the Lodge and the two others were suspended for one year.
1965 Texas – The Grand Master of Texas in his annual address lamented Negro Masons.
“It would appear that in general consensus in this Grand Jurisdiction during the last 128 years has been that members of the Negro race on the basis of anthropological, ethnological, cultural, mental, and social characteristics are not qualified for membership in our Fraternity.”
The chapter on Attempts and Repercussions for Recognition lists in chronological order of all the attempts of Negro Masonry to apply for Mainstream recognition, starting with Prince Hall petitioning Provincial Massachusetts Grand Master Joseph Warren in 1775.
The chapter on Influences on Recognition and Legitimacy explores the white side of recognition and the effect of predominately white writers and researchers on black recognition. Allen E. Roberts, Grand Master Howard L. Woods, Josiah Hayden Drummond, Albert Pike, Albert G. Mackey, William Upton and others are discussed, some having positive and some having negative effects. It also delves into the effect of The Philalethes Society, The Phylaxis Society, The Supreme Council A.S.S.R., COMPUSERVE Masonic forum and Evergreen Magazine of Iowa. Then it lists in chronological order every black/white visitation that actually occurred that the authors could find, illegal or otherwise.
In the chapter titled Rules Concerning Sovereignty we see as recognition actually started to get approved how various Mainstream jurisdictions grappled with the legalistics of recognition. It is here we learn more about the discussion of how they actually did it.
Once more we are back to the stumbling block of the The Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction.The authors tell us that there was three ways that Mainstream Grand Lodges dealt with this issue:
Ignore it or do not try to deal with it. 14 Grand Lodges chose this route.
Focus on the Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction, not Grand Lodge Code. Here Grand Lodges accepted the interpretation that this Doctrine allows consenting Grand Lodges to coexist. 6 Grand Lodges chose this route.
Amend Grand Lodge Code. 7 Grand Lodges chose this option.
Those that chose option #2 – Interpreting The American Doctrine as allowing coexistence- point to the Mainstream ruling in 1956 of The Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America which established a standard addressing Territorial Sovereignty and printed it in their Commission book of Standards for Recognition. It reads as follows:
“That it is an independent, self governing organization, having Masonic authority within the governmental territory over which it assumes jurisdiction – whether country, province, state or other political subdivision: or else shares such exclusive territorial jurisdiction with another Grand Lodge by mutual consent and treaty.”
Another Chapter deals with State Status of Recognition by listing each state and going into detail into the reports issued regarding recognition whether they approved it or disapproved it. Some states show immense detail in their deliberations and proclamations while others are quite sparse. But when the reader is through with this chapter – and thinking about the material from previous chapters – one gets a good behind the scenes insight into all deliberations, discussions and debate that has taken place over this issue. Those states that have not yet recognized Prince Hall would do well to look into what their sister jurisdictions went through to move forward into the 21st century.
Some Masons think that Prince Hall recognition is just a recent phenomenon. They might be shocked to learn that Washington State recognized Prince Hall in 1898 and that is a whole story within itself. Massachusetts recognized Prince Hall in 1947. Both these recognitions were withdrawn after much pressure was applied from other Mainstream Grand Lodges.
The first four recognitions to remain permanent were:
Connecticut – 1989
Nebraska – February 1990
Washington State – June 1990
Wisconsin – June 1990
Remembering that Roundtree and Bessel previously stated that recognition probably would not come until the final Civil Rights Act of 1968, it is worth noting that both Connecticut and Wisconsin Mainstream & Prince Hall had been involved with cooperative action with each other for 20 years before finally deciding to recognize each other. That means their first interaction would have started in 1969 & 1970.
There is much more material about Mainstream proceedings in this book because Mainstream Masonry has kept detailed records and made that material publicly available. Roundtree and Bessel comment on that fact:
“Predominately white Grand Lodge proceedings are generally available in many Masonic libraries, research Lodges, Grand Lodges as well as at the Library of Congress. Prince Hall Grand Lodges have not systematically distributed their proceedings to other Grand Lodges, libraries, or research societies. Unfortunately, for posterity’s sake, there is no central repository for Prince Hall Grand Lodge proceedings. To research Prince Hall proceedings one would have to view a private collection or contact each Prince Hall Grand Lodge concerned and ask for cooperation. The most complete set, and probably only set, of Prince Hall Grand Lodge proceedings are in the Iowa Masonic Library (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).”
Roundtree & Bessel end up their saga on recognition with a Case Study and White Paper on the Washington D.C. Prince Hall recognition. Where both authors belong to respective D.C. Grand Lodges and both were involved intimately with the process of recognition this is a further behind the scenes glimpse into the inner workings of two Grand Lodges resolving differences.
The book concludes with a chapter on Demographics. Here you will find charts and graphs showing Prince Hall membership across the nation and African American population statistics. It is interesting to learn that 50% of all Prince Hall Masons are located in 6 states: Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas.
Out of the Shadows also contains over 100 pages of Appendixes. Here you can learn about every white and black clandestine Lodge in the USA and every court case Prince Hall has ever been involved with and much National Compact information as well as many other items of interest. In addition there is a 13-page glossary of terms and a 27 page Bibliography.
My take on this book is that it is a researchers dream. If The National Compact and Prince Hall recognition are subjects you want to bone up on, you could find no better source. What may be irritating to some would be the bias of the authors who are not timid about letting you know what they think along with a good display of facts.
Alas the Demographics were reprints of color presentations in black and white and all but useless. This book is chock full of information but its production is not what I call classy. It will never make it to the leather bound classics. However, for us blue collar types we could care less. It’s good stuff!
Complied by Aubrey Brown, MPS, Kevin Gembarosky MPS, David Gray, MPS, Nelson King, FPS.
The late Allen E. Roberts wrote “For more than two centuries Prince Hall Freemasonry has been the most lied about organization in the world. Caucasian Freemasonry has misstated the facts about it; Black Freemasons and their supporters have exaggerated its history and its hierarchy.” We will dispel those myths, legends and lies.
MYTH: Prince Hall was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, B.W.I. His father Thomas Prince Hall, was an English leather worker, and his mother, a free colored woman of French extraction.
FACT: To date there has never been any proof of the birth place, or who the parents of Prince Hall where. To date there has only been speculation.
MYTH: The Initiation of Prince Hall and fourteen other men of color was illegal.
FACT: What constituted a legal Mason prior to the formation of the Grand Lodge system in USA? There were none before 1778 when the Grand Lodge of Virginia was instituted. Before then there were Provincial Grand Lodges–several of them. In Massachusetts there were two such bodies. One held allegiance to the “Modern” Grand Lodge of England; the other, the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Studying the works of Henry Wilson Coil, Melvin Maynard Johnson, J. Hugo Tatsch, Harry Carr and many others we find there were hundreds of “illegal” Masons in the early days of Freemasonry in America.
For example, where were the members of the lodge that met in Philadelphia in 1731 (and perhaps earlier) made Masons? Was Benjamin Franklin, who was made a Mason in this lodge, illegal? No of course not.
MYTH: African Lodge which the men of color formed was illegal.
FACT: Freemason’s proudly proclaim the supremacy of the Grand Lodge of England. It was the Grand Lodge of England that granted a warrant on September 29, 1784 for African Lodge No. 459, and this warrant is still in
MYTH: African Lodge had no right to warrant other lodges and form a Grand Lodge.
FACT: Let us look at the Lodge at Fredericksburgh VA. It warranted two lodges: Falmouth and Botetourt. Those Lodges helped form the Grand Lodge of Virginia, and both are still in existence. What did the only lodge in
Massachusetts do after 1733? Did it not form a Provincial Grand Lodge and then warrant other lodges, and not only in Massachusetts? Why should African Lodge be refused the same privilege?
MYTH: African Lodge’s Warrant did not give them the right to Make Masons.
FACT: Africa Lodge No. 459’s Warrant was no different from any other Warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of England.
Below is a copy of that Warrant.
TO ALL AND EVERY
Our Right Worshipful & loving Brethren, we Thomas Howard, Earl of Effingham, Lord Howard, etc. etc. etc., Acting Grand Master under the authority of His Royal Highness, Henry Frederick Duke of Cumberland etc.etc. etc., Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, sends greeting:
KNOW YE, that we, at the humble petition of our right trusty and well-beloved, Brethren, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson and several other Brethren residing in Boston, New England in North America do
hereby constitute the said Brethren into a regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the title or denomination of the African Lodge, to be opened in Boston aforesaid, and do further at their said petition, hereby appoint the said Prince Hall to be Master, Boston Smith, Senior Warden, and Thomas Sanderson, Junior Warden, for opening the said Lodge, and for such further time only as shall be thought proper by the Brethren thereof, it being our will that this our appointment of the officers shall in now wise affect any future election of officers of the Lodge, but that such election shall be regulated agreeable to such by-laws of said Lodge as shall be consistent with the general laws of the society, contained in the Book of Constitution: and we hereby will and require you, the said Prince Hall, to take special care that all and every the said Brethren are or have been regularly made Masons, and that they do observe, perform and keep all the rules and orders contained in the Book of Constitutions; and further, that you do, from time to time, cause to be entered in a book kept for that purpose, an account of your proceedings in the Lodge, together with all such rules, orders and regulations, as shall be made for the good government of the same, that in no wise you omit once in every year to send to us, or our successors, Grand Masters, or to Rowland Holt, Esq,. Our Deputy Grand Master, for the time being an account in writing of your said proceedings and copies of such rules, orders and regulations as shall be made as aforesaid, together with a list of the members of the Lodge, and such a sum of money as may suit the circumstances of the Lodge and reasonably be expected, toward the Grand Charity. Moreover, we hereby will and require you, the said Prince Hall, as soon as conveniently may be, to send an account in writing of what may be done by virtue of these presents.
Given at London, under our hand and seal of Masonry, this 29th day of September, A .L. 5784, A. D. 1784.
“By the Grand Master’s Command,
R. Holt, D. G. M.”
MYTH: African Lodge was erased by the United Grand Lodge of England.
FACT: So was every lodge in America still on the roles of either of the rival Grand Lodges. This included about half of the lodges in Massachusetts!
Has any critic dared claim all other American lodges erased from the roster of the United Grand Lodge of England are clandestine?
MYTH: African Lodge was dormant for a number of years and therefore is illegal.
FACT: So were numerous other lodges. Research the anti-Masonic craze beginning in 1826. Check out the vast number of lodges giving up their charters. Hundreds of them came back into the fold with no condemnation. Why
should they be privileged and African Lodge not?
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges are not Regular:.
FACT: Prince Hall Freemasons as do all Regular Freemasons adhere to the “landmarks”.
l. its Brethren must believe in a Supreme Being [the GAOTU];
II. Obligations must be taken on or in full view of the VSL.;
III. it must display the three Great Lights of Freemasonry when it or its Lodges are open;
IV. discussion of religion and politics in its Lodges must be prohibited, and
V. its membership must be male, and it must have nothing to do with mixed or women’s Lodges.
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges only accept men of color, and “Mainstream” Grand Lodges only accept Caucasian men.
I. John Pine, a black Freemason, who in 1769 designed the frontispiece for Anderson’s Constitutions.
II. Canadian Grand Master by the name of Charles Lightfoot Roman, Grand Lodge of Quebec, was a black Freemason.
III. The proceedings of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, 1871 provide us a record of a Lodge of German Jews working under the authority of this Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
IV. Alpha Lodge No. 116, F. & A. M. Grand Lodge of New Jersey [Mainstream] is comprised of Black Masons.
V. The United Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Scotland, and The Grand Lodge of Ireland have had Provincial Grand Lodges through out the world, and their membership is not restricted by color.
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges only accept men who are Christians.
FACT: This is a question of Regularity. Since it has already been determined that Prince Hall Lodges are Regular, for us to practice or teach this would be against the Ancient Landmarks of our order. [see Landmarks above] In 1787, Prince Hall forwarded a copy of “The General Regulations of the African Lodge to D.G.M. Roland Holt in London, with the very first item declaring, “. yet at the same time allow every man to join his own religion so that they be men of Honour and Freeborn.”
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have women members.
FACT: That would be a violation of the Landmarks and Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasons adhere to the Ancient Landmarks [see Landmarks above]
MYTH: Prince Hall Lodges have sexual orgies in the Lodge Room
FACT: Again this would be a violation of the Landmarks. [see Landmarks above] It is unfortunate that there exist in this world spurious and even out right clandestine organizations who dare travel under the name of Freemasonry and use the most immoral and un-Masonic acts in her name and in the name of Prince Hall.
MYTH: William Harry Grimshaw’s, “Negro Freemasonry… ” and books that quote this book are a reliable source for information about Prince Hall Freemasonry.
FACT: Grimshaw’s purpose was sound when he wrote this book. Grimshaw theorized and wrote what had been handed down to him from years of word of mouth teaching. Unfortunately, his theories and teaching were corrupted. An
accurate comparison would be the ritual, which has developed in North America. There is no question that word of mouth rituals are not the same ritual dictated to Ben Franklin.
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have chartered Lodges in other Grand Lodges’ Jurisdictions.
FACT: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have chartered military Lodges in Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Korea to name a few. The traditional act of chartering a Lodge to service members traveling abroad is well recorded in Masonic history. This has been a practice in Freemasonry since the very beginning of the rebirth in 1717. United Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Scotland, The Grand Lodge of Ireland, and many other “mainstream” Grand
Lodges have Charted Lodges though out the world in other Grand Lodges’ Jurisdictions.
MYTH: Prince Hall Masons intermingle politics and Masonry.
FACT: Again this would be a violation of the Landmarks [see Landmarks above] However, it is only natural that many prominent black politicians are or have been Prince Hall Masons. Prince Hall Masons by nature are inclined to be involved in their communities, and this extends to the political working.
This is done as individuals and not as masons. Prince Hall Masonry has had within it’s membership some of the preeminent Blacks in politics. The lists includes such notables as Harold Washington, Chicago; Thomas Bradley, Los Angeles; Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta; all former mayors.
Douglass Wilder, the first black elected governor, Thurgood Marshal, and Jesse Jackson, to name a few.
MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges do not enjoy full recognition from their Caucasian counterparts.
FACT: Most Prince Hall Grand Lodges and their neighboring Regular counterparts do in fact enjoy full recognition. Most of the misunderstanding perhaps is due to the fact that Prince Hall Grand Lodges do not allow dual
or plural memberships. This means that members of recognized Grand Lodges can’t join as full members. Some Prince Hall Grand Lodges allow honorary memberships. These have a number of their “Mainstream” counterparts as
honorary members. Most Prince Hall Grand Lodges do allow their members to belong to Research Lodges. Many Prince Hall Masons belong to national and state Research Lodges.
MYTH: Prince Hall Masonry does not contribute to charitable activities.
FACT: All branches of Prince Hall Freemasonry support charitable activities. From individual lodges to the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters, The Supreme Councils [ SJ & NJ], To the Shrine. Prince Hall Masonry has
contributed millions of dollars in such charitable activities as scholarships and medical aid and research.
MYTH: All Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges are Regular.
FACT: Not all Regular Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodges are titled as such. The Regular Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the state of Mississippi is, The Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge, F.& A.M. [Prince Hall Affiliated].
The Regular Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the state of Florida is, The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, PHA. There are irregular Black Grand Lodges in both these states using the title of Prince
Hall Grand Lodge. There are also other such outfits operating around the country. They will usually delineate somewhere in there title Prince Hall Origin.
MYTH: Prince Hall Masonry has never bothered to take Irregular Black Grand Lodges to court.
FACT: There is a long history of Prince Hall Grand Lodges taking irregular Black Masonic bodies to court. In many of these cases, their Caucasian counterparts, have filed “Friend of the Court” briefs supporting the Prince Hall Grand Lodge’s stance. In fact, Prince Hall Masonry has taken every major black Masonic body to court in one state or another and has won injunctive relief in all such cases. These suits span back as far as the 20’s and include such bodies as, The Internationals or Banks Organization, The Most Worshipful Universal Grand Lodge; also known as the John G. Jones
Grand Lodges, and the John A. Bell Grand Lodges. Virtually all major irregular bodies are the offspring to one of the afore mentioned bodies.
There are of course numerous smaller bodies that spring up virtually over night without any governing body. Today Prince Hall Masonry for the most part, has chosen to use it’s funds for the betterment of the community as
opposed to costly legal battles.
MYTH: The Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters has never or only recently embraced its Caucasian counterparts.
FACT: Even before recognition, Prince Hall Grand Masters have met, worked with, and received their Caucasian counterparts in informal as well as formal and public Masonic events. There is documentation going back to 1970
stating the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters received such prominent members as the Grand Master of Mass. AF&AM, and the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, N.J. at it’s meeting.
MYTH: Prince Hall and its Caucasian counterparts have only recently began to meet formally.
FACT: There is much documentation showing that the two bodies have often met formally as far back as 1923 when the two Supreme Councils [N.J.] met. This meeting resulted in the Prince Hall body deciding to change its name to
United Supreme Council and add the suffix, Prince Hall Affiliated to it’s name to distinguish the two. After the meeting, the Supreme Council [N.J.]
Caucasian, issued the following press release.
Offer of “Informal Co-operation”
Boston, Mass. Sept. 22, 1923
An offer of “informal co-operation” was extended last Wednesday by the Supreme Council A. A. S. R. Masons Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in session in this city to the United Supreme Council [Prince Hall Affiliated] representing Negroes in the United States. Although no official recognition was adopted by the convention, the Supreme Council voted it’s policy of co-operation after hearing a report of the legal aspects of the situation arising from the similarity in the names of the two organizations which existed until recently. The United Supreme Council changed its name in order to distinguish it from the organization meeting here. In appreciation of this action and to put itself on record of racial toleration the Council decided to adopt an attitude of co-operation that was generally felt would be advantageous both for the Negroes and the community at large.
The work of the two organizations is said to be approximately the same and the colored fraternity which is chartered in Pennsylvania is the Grand East for this organization.
These two bodies met again on May 19, 1944 in New York City where a similar resolution was made. The key addition made at this time was the Supreme Council acknowledging that the Prince Hall bodies were legally descended from the Grand Lodge of England and Regular in all Masonic aspects.
Published by Nelson King
What’s left to comment on is the The Right Of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction or the American Doctrine. It is called the American Doctrine because only in America is it practiced. It’s not a subject we haven’t been over before.
It’s always been against Masonic etiquette for a new Grand Lodge to enter an established Masonic territory as a Masonic Raider. But that is not the case in the early development of American Mainstream and Prince Hall Freemasonry.
Some scholars say that they can trace back into the mid to late 1700s where the ROETJ was already a standard practice even in England. Some of these same scholars say that Prince Hall uses the same doctrine against its own – battling rogue Black Masonic Grand Lodges and declaring them clandestine. The two assertions are interconnected and wrong.
There is a big difference in refusing to recognize and to take action against irregular Freemasonry which does not follow the Landmarks and refusing to subsist with a peaceful, regular Grand Lodge in the same territory. The actions our early Mainstream forefathers took in battling other Grand Lodges was, for the most part, a fight against irregularity. So is the battle Prince Hall wages against its knock offs.
But this whole separation and question of the ROETJ need not have happened. It could have been avoided by Mainstream Masonry accepting Prince Hall into the family when the Antients and the Moderns reconciled. The fact that this was not done leads to conjecture that the ROETJ was created specifically for the purpose of disenfranchising Black Masonry and to have a legal basis to declare it clandestine and illegal. For it is precisely in this period in the first quarter of the 19th century that the American Doctrine came to be widely used. So you still have Southern Mainstream Freemasons saying that – well if they weren’t a separate Grand Lodge in the same territory we would recognize Black Freemasonry. Yet they and their ancestors are the very people that refused to embrace Blacks in Freemasonry, forced them to go their separate way and then created a Doctrine which made their continued separate existence illegal. So if you set up roadblocks and codify separation so that you won’t accept Black Freemasonry inside Mainstream Grand Lodges nor allow them to exist separately legally without declaring them clandestine then which way did those setting up these rules expect Black Freemasonry to go? The answer is they expected it to go away.
For those of you who might be tempted to say – well Blacks can just join Mainstream Grand Lodges where Prince Hall is not recognized today, you could be accused of having your head buried in the sand. You would not have remembered the battle of Frank Haas in West Virginia, the scandal of the Grand Lodge of Georgia against Gate City Lodge No. 2 and the recent shenanigans now coming to light in Arkansas.
Southern white Freemasonry and that’s what Southern Mainstream Freemasonry is – white, a WASP society, cannot have it both ways. It cannot refuse to recognize Prince Hall because of some legal mumbo jumbo in the ROETJ while at the same time black balling every non white applicant. But that is precisely what it is doing.
How much longer are the states who now do recognize Prince Hall going to sit back and do nothing while a minority of the Craft in one region of the country smears the reputation and good name of the Craft? How long are the good guys going to hide behind the good old boys understanding that one does not interfere in another jurisdiction’s business? How many members of the next generation do you think will want to join an organization which can truthfully be labeled racist?