Prince Hall (1735-1807) was the organizer and founder of Masonry among men of Color. Thought to have been born in Barbados around 1735, he first worked as a leather dresser, later as a laborer by day and studying at night. He educated himself and became a leader in the efforts to eliminate slavery and bring about a stronger unified people. He was instrumental in freeing many slaves. He was an abolitionist and a patriot, as he volunteered to fight in the American Revolution and was later accepted in the Continental Army led by George Washington.
PGM Wiley L. Kimbrough 1894-1896 of Paul L. Drayton Lodge No. 9
There's not a lot known of Wiley Kimbrough but records do show him serving as Most Worshipful Grand Master in Texas. Some of his contributions were him heading some major California Programs such which included Public Affairs, Insurance Programs currently in place, Corporate Affairs, Publicity and assisted in updating the current constitution and bi laws.
He passed at the age of 102 in 1948.
This lodge was founded in his honor. His grand daughter appeared at the Opening ceremony and presented the lodge his sword. That sword still being used in masonic ceremonies today.
Although little is known about the circumstances of his birth, his condition of servitude, or his occupation, we do know that because of Prince Hall's dedication to improve the quality of life for his people, accompanied by a desire to become a Freemason, he and 14 other men of color received the three degrees of Freemasonry by being initiated into the fraternity on March 6, 1775 in an Irish Military Lodge attached to the 38th Foot of the British Army. This event made Prince Hall the first of his race in North America to enter the oldest and most prestigious fraternity in history. The historical record reflects that the others were: Cyrus Johnston, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Fortune Howard, and Richard Titley.
Around April 14, 1776, the military regiment to which Hall's lodge was attached received orders to relocate to the New York Colony, leaving Prince Hall and his Negro brethren, all civilians, without a lodge. Prior to his leaving, however, the Worshipful Master, Sgt. John Batt, issued to Prince Hall and his brethren a permit to walk on St. John's Day and to bury their dead with full Masonic Rites.
As a result, African Lodge #1 Ancient Accepted York Masons was formed with Prince Hall elected the Worshipful Master. As the Batt permit left Prince Hall with Masonic limitations, Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, Ancient and Accepted York Masons, for a full charter in 1784.
On March 2, 1784, Prince Hall wrote a letter to William Moody, Worshipful Master of Brotherly Love Lodge #55 in London, England, 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." He thought it "best to send to the Fountains from whence he received the Light for a Warrant." This Warrant or Charter was prepared that same year but was held up when the fees sent by Prince Hall never arrived.
After several years had passed, Hall decided to entrust another fee to Captain James Scott of Boston, 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 the Charter Warrant, which he duly delivered to Prince Hall in Boston, Massachusetts in September of 1787, about the time of the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Prince Hall acknowledged receipt of the Charter in a letter to England and added, "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."
According to record, the Charter naming and numbering African Lodge No. 459, which was later changed to 371 on the English Grand Lodge Register, has been and is in the exclusive possession of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Massachusetts, and it is secured in the First National Bank of Boston. It is brought out and displayed every ten years during the Prince Hall Masonic pilgrimage. Some of us have seen it and treasure it, for it is believed to be the only original Charter issued from the Grand Lodge of England which in now in the possession of any lodge in the United States.
Prince Hall made a great impact upon society during his life; among his many accomplishments:
He petitioned General George Washington to admit men of color into the Continental Army. Of further note Hall distinguished himself at Bunker Hill. He led the entire Lodge membership in support of Governor Bowdoin during the rebellion of Daniel Shay and his group.
He petitioned the Massachusetts state legislature for the funds to educate children of color.
He opened his home as a school to provide an education to adults of color.
He petitioned the state legislature to grant to all citizens of color the right to own real property and to vote in all elections.
He served as a "Special Deputy" to the Grand Lodge of England at the end of the Revolutionary War and was armed with the charge to travel throughout the colonies to determine the number of Subordinate Caucasian Lodges still operating as such in the new world.
The question of extending Masonry within the Black Community arose when Absalam Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania appeared in Boston in 1791. He was an ordained Episcopal Priest and a Freemason who was interested in establishing a Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia. Black men from Providence, Rhode Island also came to Boston to inquire about Masonry. At a subsequent assembly in 1791, the African Grand Lodge was formed by delegations from Philadelphia, Providence, and New York. Prince Hall served as its first Grand Master and remained in this capacity until his death. African Lodge in Philadelphia and Hiram Lodge in Providence came under the aegis of this Grand Lodge in 1797.
Prince Hall died December 4, 1807. A broken-column monument marks the gravesite of Prince Hall in Copp's Hill Cemetery in Boston. At the General Assembly of the Craft in 1808, the name "African Grand Lodge" was changed to "Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Massachusetts." The Deputy Grand Master, Brother Nero Prince, became Prince Hall's successor as Grand Master from 1807-1808, followed by George Middleton, 1808-1810, then Peter Lew, Samuel H. Moody, and the well-known John T. Hilton, who recommended a declaration of independence from the English Grand Lodge in 1827 and the assumption of powers and prerogatives as an independent Grand Lodge.
During this most significant period of Masonic growth and development, Freemasonry spread from Massachusetts, through New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Deleware, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Ohio, and Virginia. Many lodges and Grand Lodges were founded under the authority of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. Today there are over one million Prince Hall Masons in approximately 50,000 lodges in 44 jurisdictions throughout the United States, Canada, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean.
It takes three or more lodges to form a Grand Lodge. Hannibal Lodge Number 1 of San Francisco, Philomathean Lodge Number 2 of Sacramento, and Victoria Lodge Number 3 of San Francisco are the three lodges that formed the "Grand Lodge, Free Ancient and Accepted York Masons," organized in San Francisco, California on Tuesday, June 19, 1855. Hence, the ninth Grand Lodge was formed. Later, it was titled "Sovereign Grand Lodge." The fraternity now holds the distinguished title of "Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the States of California and
Hawaii, Incorporated." Since its colonial birth, the organization has attracted to its ranks professional men in business, government, religion, and community service—civic-minded men of goodwill and character who continue to provide needed services for the betterment of mankind, thereby leaving a legacy by which Prince Hall Freemason's are best known.
Prince Hall: A Social Reformer of Tremendous Masonic Conviction
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of California Freemason (Grand Lodge of California)
For the ex-slaves living in post-Revolutionary Boston, Freemasonry offered a set of ideas that had great bearing on their identities. The Masonic values of brotherhood, universal love, and the equality implicit in “meeting on the level” could even be used to “challenge the injustices of the dominant culture.”
Prince Hall, an ex-slave living in Boston during the last half of the 18th century, used Freemasonry to rethink the status of African-Americans in American society and to challenge the powerful to follow suit.
Prince Hall was born into slavery in 1735. After receiving his freedom in 1770, he worked as a leather dresser in Boston. It is believed that he was one of the six black men of Massachusetts named Prince Hall listed in military records of the Revolution, and he may well have fought at Bunker Hill. A bill he sent to a military official indicates that he crafted five leather drumheads for the Boston Regiment of Artillery in April 1777. His involvement in the Revolution led the way for his fraternal affiliation.
On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and 14 other black men were initiated into Freemasonry. Sergeant John Batt, of the Irish Military Lodge No. 441, conducted the work. When Brother Batt’s Regiment left Boston three weeks later, he gave Prince Hall a “permet” authorizing them to march on St. John’s Day and to bury their dead in a due and proper manner.
After nine years, on September 29, 1784, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, and Thomas Sanderson secured the issuance of a warrant by the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) for African Lodge No. 459. Prince Hall would serve as master of the lodge for many years. This provided Prince Hall with a public identity and a platform for speaking to the Boston community. Contemporary references to him always included his Masonic standing, often identifying him as “the grand master of the black lodge.”
Brother Hall wrote in 1782 that the two “grand pillars of Masonry” were love to God and universal love to all mankind. For Hall, Masonry’s expressed values of freedom, equality, and human dignity enabled him to formulate a means of denouncing Boston’s treatment of black Americans in the years following the Revolution. In 1787, Brother Hall and other black citizens of Boston filed a petition in the Massachusetts legislature stating that even though blacks paid the same taxes as whites, their children were not allowed to attend public schools. The petition was ignored. So in 1800, Brother Hall opened a school for black children in his own home, thus founding Boston's first black school.
Prince Hall had his greatest impact by drawing attention to Masonry’s other great pillar — brotherly love. Speaking as a member of an international brotherhood, he gained the moral authority to challenge the white Masonic orthodoxy of the day, simply by pointing out the inconsistencies between a fraternity that avowed equality and fraternity, yet treated blacks as inferiors.
When African Lodge No. 459 petitioned to join the newly formed Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, they were refused entry into “mainstream” Freemasonry. The lodge continued to work, however, and later two other lodges were established: one in Philadelphia and one in Providence. These lodges were the source of the African Grand Lodge.
Prince Hall died in 1807 at the age of 72. Later, the African Grand Lodge honored him by changing its name to Prince Hall Grand Lodge.