Prince Hall Freemasons

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Prince Hall Freemasons are a branch of US Freemasonry which separated from the US Freemasons about two centuries ago and decided to become independent. Prince Hall Freemasonry has been deemed regular by the United Grand Lodge of England. Prince Hall Freemasons were originally all African-American, although today’s Prince Hall Freemasons have slightly more varied Lodges and welcome other races as well.

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Background of the Prince Hall Freemasons

In 1775, Prince Hall was made a Master Mason in Irish Constitution Military Lodge No. 441. That same day, fourteen other men -- Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Thomas Santerson, Cyrus Johnston, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Forten Horward, and Richard Titley – were also made Master Masons. Hall and the other men were African American but were free by birth. When the Military Lodge left the region, the fifteen African Americans were given authority by that Military Lodge to meet and to conduct Masonic business but could not confer degrees. The men applied to the Grand Lodge of England in 1784 and received permission to create African Lodge #459.

In 1813, all US Grand Lodges were removed from the rolls of the Grand Lodge of England after the merger of the Antients and the Moderns, and African Lodge #459 designated itself African Lodge #1. Separated from the Grand Lodge of England, African Lodge #1 began an African American Jurisdictions, which came to be known as Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Racism and Prince Hall Freemasons

Over the years, segregation and racism made it hard for African-Americans to join regular lodges, and therefore many became Prince Hall Freemasons. However, for many years most Grand Lodges across North America did not recognize Prince Hall Masons. In recent history, Grand Lodges that have state Jurisdictions have integrated membership, and this has applied to Prince Hall Freemason Lodges as well. Today, Prince Hall Lodges are recognized by the Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), most state Grand Lodges recognizing the UGLE and most international Grand Lodges affiliated with UGLE.

Prince Hall and the Freemasons

Many Prince Hall Lodges add the words 'Prince Hall' to their names to avoid confusion. The term links these Lodges to the Prince Hall Lodge tradition and also serves to distinguish these largely recognized Lodges from the secret African-American Grand Lodges which were formed occasionally by men who could not enter regular Lodges due to segregation. These secret Lodges, however, were never recognized and some were used to espouse beliefs that did not fit with Freemasonry as a whole. Prince Hall Grand Masters met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1944 and deemed that adding the words 'Prince Hall' to Lodge Names would eliminate confusion.

Famous Prince Hall Freemasons

There are many famous Prince Hall Freemasons:

  • Ralph H. Metcalfe (Olympian)
  • Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls basketball players)
  • Sugar Ray Robinson (boxing champion)
  • Rev. Al Sharpton (civil rights leader)
  • W.E.B. DuBois (educator and writer)
  • Booker T. Washington (educator)
  • Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams (actor)
  • Matthew Henson (explorer)
  • Thurgood Marshall (Justice of the US Supreme Court)
  • Nathaniel "Nat King" Cole (pianist and singer)
  • "Duke" Ellington (Jazz legend and composer)
  • Alex Haley (writer)
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