In America, Prince Hall Masonry has enjoyed a very rich, though often mis-understood history. Moreover, this history has been clouded over the years by mountains of mis-information, ignorance, and downright hatefulness. However, two things are certain. We, as Americans, owe the British for our original foundings as colonies and then a Nation. We may also thank the British military Lodge(s) stationed in Boston, MA for Initiating Black men into our Fraternity- the beginnings of Prince Hall Masonry.
Great Britain- Thank You On Both Counts!
March 6, 1775 Prince Hall and 14 other men were made Masons, with all the usual customs and usages, in Lodge #441, which was of Irish heritage and attached to the British forces stationed at Boston Harbor. Close to a year later, the new Masons (the first men of color on the North American continent to enjoy that honor), were left alone and without an accepting Lodge as the British military Lodges retreated. This accomplished two things: the still present practice of American racism within Freemasonry was born; and the course for the formation of African Lodge #459 on Sept. 29, 1784. From this eventually grew The Prince Hall Grand Lodge, first erected as “African Grand Lodge #1 in December 1808, which still exists and more often than not- THRIVES in the modern day!
Please read more at PrinceHall.org:
“A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRINCE HALL FREEMASONRY IN MASSACHUSETTS
On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and 14 men of color were made masons in Lodge #441 of the Irish Registry attached to the 38th British Foot Infantry at Castle William Island in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. It marked the first time that Black men were made masons in America.
About a year later, since the conflict between England and America had commenced, the British Foot Infantry left Boston, along with its lodge, leaving Prince Hall and his associates without a lodge. Before the lodge left, Worshipful Master Batt, gave them a “permit” to meet as a lodge and bury their dead in manner and form. This permit, however, did not allow them to do any “masonic work” or to take in any new members.
Under it, African Lodge was organized on July 3, 1776, with Prince Hall as the worshipful master. It wasn’t long before this lodge received an additional “permit” from Provincial Grand Master John Rowe to walk in procession on St. John’s Day.
On March 2, 1784, African Lodge #1 petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, the Premier or Mother Grand Lodge of the world, for a warrant (or charter), to organize a regular masonic lodge, with all the rights and privileges thereunto prescribed.
The Grand Lodge of England issued a charter on September 29, 1784 to African Lodge #459, the first lodge of Blacks in America.
African Lodge #459 grew and prospered to such a degree that Worshipful Master Prince Hall was appointed a Provincial Grand Master, in 1791, and out of this grew the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge.
In 1797 he organized a lodge in Philadelphia and one in Rhode Island. These lodges were designated to work under the charter of African Lodge #459.
In December 1808, one year after the death of Prince Hall, African Lodge #459 (Boston), African Lodge #459 (Philadelphia) and Hiram Lodge #3 (Providence) met in a general assembly of the craft and organized African Grand Lodge (sometime referred to as African Grand Lodge #I).
In 1847, out of respect for their founding father and first Grand Master, Prince Hall, they changed their name to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the name it carries today. In 1848 Union Lodge #2, Rising Sons of St. John #3 and Celestial Lodge #4 became the first lodges organized under the name Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
From these beginnings, there now are some 5,000 lodges and 47 grand lodges who trace their lineage to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.
Honorable Brother Yves-René Maignan, is the 71st Most Worshipful Grand Master for Massachusetts, and carries on the tradition started by Bro. Prince Hall over 200 years ago.”