posted on Jan, 16 2011 @ 07:19 PM
When the British Army left Boston in 1776, the black Masons had limited power. They could meet as a lodge, take part in the Masonic procession on St.
John’s Day, and bury their dead with Masonic rites but could not confer Masonic degrees or perform any other essential functions of a fully
operating Lodge. It took nine years of petitioning white American Lodges before they appealed to the less prejudiced lodges in England. They
applied to the Grand Lodge of England for a warrant March 2, 1784. While waiting to hear from England, Prince Hall applied to mainstream Masonic
authorities for a temporary full warrant in the meantime. They were unsuccessful. However, they were granted a second permit to continue with their
original, though limited, operations that covered the period until Hall heard back from the Grand Lodge. The first meeting place was a lodge room they
prepared in “Golden Fleece” which was located near Boston Harbor. They later met at Kirby Street Temple in Boston.
Eventually, the grand master of the Mother Grand Lodge of England, H. R. H. The Duke of Cumberland, issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1 later
renamed African Lodge no. 459 September 29, 1784. But the charter was not received until April, 29, 1787 due to complications. The Lodge was organized
under the warrant May 6, 1781. Shortly after, black masons elsewhere in the United States began contacting Prince Hall with requests to establish
Lodges in their own cities. Consistent with European Masonic practices at the time, African Lodge granted their requests and served as Mother Lodge to
new black Lodges in Newport, Rhode Island in 1799, Philadelphia, Providence and New York.
By 1779 there were at least thirty-four members in the Boston black lodge, a sizeable number that was overlooked by mainstream Boston
Masons.Unfortunately, integration with the American white Masons was not impending. The dream that black Masonry and white Masonry would become simply
Freemasonry had to be either abandoned or, at least, indefinitely postponed. Instead, the blacks concentrated on recognition from the whites.
Recognition required that white Masons state that black Masonry, descending from Prince Hall of Massachusetts, was legitimate and not
“clandestine.” That it had received its charter from the English Grand Lodge and was thus entitled to all Masonic rights such as intervisitation
between black and white lodges without prejudice. Many Grand Masters hoped that ultimately recognition would lead to integration but they knew it
would be a long time before that happened.
In 1791, black Freemasons met in Boston and formed the African Grand Lodge of North America. Prince Hall was unanimously elected its Grand Master and
served until his death in 1807. (The claim that he was appointed Provincial Grand Master for North America in 1791 appears to have been fabricated.)
The African Grand Lodge was later renamed the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in his honor. In 1827 the African Grand Lodge declared its independence from the
United Grand Lodge of England, as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts had done 45 years earlier. It also stated its independence from all of the white
Grand Lodges in the United States.
Today, predominantly black Prince Hall Grand Lodges exist in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Liberia, governing Prince Hall Lodges
throughout the world. Hall’s legacy as a freemason and a leader has survived with the lodges. As a Georgia Mason noted, the original local lodge
rules written by Prince Hall and his followers in the late 18th century were the first set of regulations drafted by colored men for self government
in the United States and Masonry ever since has striven to teach its members ‘the fundamentals of central government’ which is the basis of
American life.” After nearly two centuries of controversy, the Grand Lodge of England was asked to decide the matter of Prince Hall Masonic
legitimacy. Carefully studying the records, the Grand Lodge of England concluded that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was indeed entitled
to Masonic recognition and this against the tradition that, per state, only one recognized Masonic body should exist.