All Men Free and Brethren: Prince Hall and Black Freemasonry

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On March 6, 1775 at Castle William Island in Boston Harbor, an Irish soldier initiated Prince Hall and a dozen or more black Bostonian men into a lodge of Freemasons. The Grand Lodge of England issued a charter on September 29, 1784 to African Lodge #459, making them the first people of African descent formally admitted into Freemasonry. Prince Hall, a freedman, would emerge as the leader of this group as they worked together to establish a tradition of African American Freemasonry that has persisted for more than 200 years.

Come hear stories about Prince Hall (c.1735 - December 4, 1807),  abolitionist, civic leader, caterer, leather-dresser, and founder of what would become the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Trace the history of black Freemasons, their relationship to the African Meeting House and their roles as activists, entrepreneurs, soldiers, and politicians.

The evening, presented by MAAH and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, features two of its leaders joined by the co-editors of All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry to present powerful stories of black Freemasons and their impact on the making of America. The Lodge now states that "It is impossible to separate the history of black men in this nation from those whose lives he influenced. He was more than the founder of this organization; he should be considered one of the founding fathers of this nation."

Hall petitioned to permit black men to enlist in the army to "fight for their rights as American citizens.” He petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts to free all enslaved people. He united the black community of Boston to create the first black school organized by black citizens for black children. He fought for the rights of blacks in the courts. He started a Back to Africa movement 130 years before Marcus Garvey, resulting in Prince Hall Masons joining with others to establish Liberia.