PRINCE HALL: TRAILBLAZER
On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall, along with fourteen other free black men of Boston were made Masons at British Army Lodge, No. 58, then attached to one of General Thomas Gage's regiments stationed in the city. Hall and the other newly initiated Masons were granted the authority to meet as a separate lodge, march in parades, and bury their dead. However, they were not granted permission to confer degrees or perform any other Masonic work.
On March 2, 1784, Hall wrote a letter to William Moody, Worshipful Master of Brotherly Love Lodge No. 55 in London, stating that African Lodge had been in operation for eight years and they had only "a permit to walk on St. John’s Day and to bury their dead in manner and form". The charter was prepared but was not sent due to the fact the payment for it had not been received in London. It seems that Prince Hall had sent it, but it had not been delivered. Finally, he was careful in selecting his messengers and asked Captain James Scott, brother-in-law of Governor John Hancock of Massachusetts, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Captain Scott delivered the letter and the money, and received a Charter. Prince Hall acknowledged this receipt and added in this letter to England, "By the grace of GOD, I shall endeavor to fulfill all that is required of me in the Charter and I shall make the constitution my guide."He added, "I hope we can adorn our profession as Masons." It is believed to be the only original charter issued from the Grand Lodge of England in the possession of any lodge in the United States.
As an avid abolitionist and activist for civil rights, Prince Hall leveraged the Masonic ranks to improve the conditions for African Americans. He founded one of the first schools for black youth, formally petitioned the legislature to end slavery and aided slaves to their paths to freedom. The Lodges he lead were organized and powerful to the point that they became a bastion of brotherhood for African Americans during a period in history where the institution of slavery maintained a firm foothold in most states of the Union.
In no small portion do we owe Prince Hall a great debt of gratitude not just as Freemasons, or African Americans, but as citizens of humanity.