Prince Hall Freemasonry

On March 6, 1775, an African American named ”Prince Hall” was made a Master Mason in Irish Constitution Military Lodge No. 441, along with fourteen other African Americans: Cyrus Johnston, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Horward, and Richard Titley, all of whom apparently were free by birth. When the Military Lodge left the area, the African Americans were given the authority to meet as a Lodge, form Processions on the days of the Saints John, and conduct Masonic funerals, but not to confer degrees nor to do other Masonic work. These individuals applied for and obtained a Warrant for Charter from the Grand Lodge of England in and formed African Lodge #459.

Despite being stricken from the rolls like all American Grand Lodges were after the merger of the Ancients and the Modern the Lodge restyled itself as African Lodge #1, and separated itself from United Grand Lodge of England-recognized Masonry. This led to a tradition of separate, predominantly African American jurisdictions in North America, which are known collectively as Prince Hall Freemasonry. Widespread ”Racial segregation” in North America made it impossible for African Americans to join many mainstream lodges, and many mainstream Grand Lodges in North America refused to recognize as legitimate the Prince Hall Lodges and Prince Hall Masons in their territory.

For many years both Prince Hall and “mainstream” Grand Lodges have had integrated membership, though in some Southern states this has been policy but not practice. Today, Prince Hall Lodges are recognized by the Grand Lodge of England as well as the great majority of state Grand Lodges in the US and many international Grand Lodges. While no Grand Lodge of any kind is universally recognized, at present, Prince Hall Masonry is recognized by some UGLE-recognized Grand Lodges and not by others, but appears to be working its way toward further recognition. According to data compiled in 2008, 41 out of the 51 mainstream US Grand Lodges recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges. The mainstream state Grand Lodges that do not recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges are located largely in southern states