The Prince Hall Masons
African American Masonry began in America with Prince Hall on March 6, 1775. Prince Hall and fourteen other freed African American men were made Masons in an army lodge attached to a British Regiment stationed in Boston, Massachusetts. One Year later Prince Hall opened the first lodge of African American men in America. The Prince Hall Masons became an organization dedicated to promoting brotherhood, community service and a positive African American identity, as well as to combating racism.
In an interview with Mr. Furman Williams he stated just prior to the interview "I can talk to you about the Masons but I can't talk to you about Masonry. The outspoken eighty three year old informed me that he became a Mason because he wanted to become an example to others in the community. He stated " I wanted people to be able look at me and say I want to be just like him." He also stated that he wanted to help the people of the community. The Mason according to Mr. Williams have made several sizable donations to various organizations throughout it's existence. He went on to say that The Prince Hall Lodge across the street from Booker T. Washington High School was a combination of different Masonic groups. The group to which he belonged had a total of eighty three members. To be chosen as a Mason they must possess strong personal characteristics and have a sound criminal background.
The Masons provided several important services essential to the survival of the African American community. The organizations provided African American men with lodges where they could gather in an atmosphere of brotherly love. Social intercourse between African Americans and the Whites in the Norfolk area sometimes had disastrous consequences. Norfolk's population of 115,777 had seen its share of riots. Norfolk's Church Street would be blocked off several times by military police and declared to be off limits to sailors and soldiers. These Lodges would also serve to house meetings of the Knights of Labor and prevent the Ku Klux Klan from inciting violence.
The Masons also provided their members with burial insurance. Burial insurance would be beneficial to the African American Community because few major insurance companies were willing to provide insurance to African Americans. The Prince Hall Mason would also provide money to surviving spouse members. The Masons would also donate several contributions to various organizations.
The Masons of all organizations would also denounce the racist tactics of the Ku Klux Klan declaring them to be unMasonic and unAmerican. These organizations would provide several functions to undermine the efforts of the Klan. Among these Masons were W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Their effort would be detrimental in the continued survival of the African American Community everywhere.