On this date, July 13, in 1775, Prince Hall founded Africa Lodge No. 1, the first African American Lodge of Free Masons.
Prince Hall, one of Boston’s most prominent citizens during the revolutionary period, was the founder of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of Boston, the world’s first lodge of black Freemasonry and the first society in American history devoted to social, political, and economic improvement.
Not much is known of Hall’s life before the Revolution. He was born in 1735 and was the slave of William Hall of Boston. His son, Primus, was born in 1756 to Delia, a servant in another household. In 1762, at the age of 27, Hall joined the Congregational Church, and soon after, married an enslaved woman named Sarah Ritchie. Eight years later, after Sarah’s death, he married Flora Gibbs of Gloucester.
A month after the Boston Massacre, William Hall freed Prince; his certificate of manumission read that he was “no longer Reckoned a slave, but [had] always accounted as a free man.” Hall made his living as a huckster (peddler), caterer and leather dresser, and was listed as a voter and a taxpayer. He owned a small house and leather workshop 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 Colonel Crafts indicates that he crafted five leather drumheads for the Boston Regiment of Artillery in April, 1777.
In 1775, Hall and fourteen other free blacks joined a British army lodge of Masons who were stationed in Boston. After the British departed, they formed their own lodge, African Lodge No. 1, though it would be twelve years before they received a permanent charter. Hall became the lodge’s first Grand Master. [Continue reading.]
For further reading and research, see also:
Recognizing Prince Hall: An Eleven Year Journey to Honesty by Dan Weatherington. [book link]