Masons Struggle with Racial Separation

Discussion in 'Prince Hall Freemasonry' started by Bro.BruceBenjamin, May 30, 2011.

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  1. Bro.BruceBenjamin

    Bro.BruceBenjamin Premium Member

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    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Masons, the storied fraternal order whose members have included Mozart, George Washington and John Wayne, has become entwined across the Deep South with the remnants of another tradition in these parts: strict segregation.

    Nationwide, Masonic groups operate in a separate-but-supposedly-equal system in which whites typically join one network of Masonic groups, called Grand Lodges, and blacks typically join another, called Prince Hall.

    But in the South, it goes further: White-controlled Grand Lodges in 12 Southern states do not even officially recognize black Masons as their brothers — the Masonic term is “mutual recognition” — and in some cases, black lodges have taken similar stands.
    Masons have quietly debated race relations for years, and the issue is increasingly coming into public view.

    In Alabama, some dissident whites have split from the lodge system, and Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s membership in an all-white lodge has drawn fire in his campaign for a second term. In North Carolina, white Masons recently voted down a bid to recognize members of the black group as fellow Masons.

    "Only the states of the old Confederacy, minus Virginia and plus West Virginia, don’t have mutual recognition,” said Paul Bessel, a Maryland Mason who wrote a book on the topic. “There are, I’m sorry to say, some Masons who are racists. But the vast majority don’t feel that way."

    'This is 2006'
    Grand Lodges and Prince Hall groups coexist with few problems and officially recognize each other in 38 states and the District of Columbia, with members free to mingle and attend each other’s meetings. Frank Chandler, a leader of the black Masonic group in Delaware, was happy to see mutual recognition granted in his state last month.

    "The importance of it to me is that this is 2010. If we as black folks and they as white folks can’t live together, we’re got real problems," said Chandler, a retired Delaware state trooper.

    But Bessel said the separation in the Deep South is entrenched and remains in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

    It also extends to Shriners, the men who wear funny red hats and operate a network of 22 charity hospitals for children. Shriners draw all their members from Masonry, and many of their policies are based on Masonic rules, Bessel said.

    Long American history
    The Masonic movement, also known as Freemasonry, began in Enlightenment-area England and is known for its white aprons and architectural symbols. It came to the United States more than 250 years ago. Mainstream Masonry was controlled by whites, so blacks began meeting at lodges of their own in the 1770s; the organization that resulted was later named for one of the founders, Prince Hall.

    The all-black lodges flourished alongside their white counterparts. White Masons in Washington state briefly considered admitting Prince Hall Masons in 1890, Bessel said, but the resulting uproar kept most such proposals on hold until 1989, when the Grand Lodge of Connecticut passed a resolution formally recognizing black Masons.
    Since then, 37 other state organizations have granted mutual recognition.

    In Alabama, where critics say Grand Lodge members rejected a move to recognize black Masons in 1999, a few white Masons have formed a group outside the old system.

    The issue also has become political, with Democrats accusing Alabama’s governor of racism for his membership in an all-white lodge. Riley said he didn’t know there were two separate Masonic groups and hadn’t heard of mutual recognition until questioned recently by an Associated Press reporter.

    Race card, race ballot
    This fall, white Masons in North Carolina refused to grant recognition to Prince Hall Masons. The vote was 681 for recognition and 404 against — just short of the two-thirds majority required, according to Ric Carter, editor of the state’s Masonic newspaper. Black Masons in North Carolina granted recognition of white Masons in 2004.

    The whites’ refusal to reciprocate “raises the ugly head of racism, segregation, all over again,” said the leader of Prince Hall Masons in North Carolina, Milton G. “Toby” Fitch Jr., a state judge and former majority leader in the North Carolina House.

    "The best analogy I can give is Baptist churches: You have black Baptist churches, and you have white Baptist churches. But they both recognize each other as being Baptist. We are talking about accepting the fact that 'you practice Masonry and I practice Masonry."'

    The head of Prince Hall Masons in Arkansas, Cleveland Wilson, said neither black nor white groups there have discussed mutual recognition. Extending Masonic brotherhood would be nice, he said, “but we’re fine without them.”

    “I’m of the attitude that since they haven’t shown any interest, I’m not interested either,” Wilson said.

    Note: On December 2, 2006 the Grand Lodge of Texas voted to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas. On April 23, 2007, the two Grand Lodges signed a compact, formally recognizing each other. On June 22, 2007 the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas voted to ratify the compact that was signed in April. (see signing at http://www.mwphglotx.org/index2.htm and click on compact signing. On August 28, 2007, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas applied to the United Grand Lodge of England for fraternal recognition. On March 12, 2008, the United Grand Lodge voted favorably to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas.

    On September 19, 2008, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina adopted the following resolution: Resolution of Mutual Recognition of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina WHEREAS, The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina (hereinafter The Grand Lodge) desires to insure a continuing harmonious relationship between it and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and its Jurisdictions, Inc. (hereinafter The Prince Hall Grand Lodge); to provide for the successful coexistence of both Grand Lodges and to promote Masonry in general among all peoples;

    AND WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge, for all the reasons set out in Brother James G. Martin’s statement to The Grand Lodge dated September 29, 2001, believes that it is altogether right and proper and in the best interests of Masonry everywhere and particularly in North Carolina that these two Grand Lodges exercising Masonic jurisdiction in this state mutually recognize each other while each retains its own autonomy and jurisdiction hereafter as heretofore;

    AND WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is satisfied that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge meets all Masonic requirements for recognition;

    AND WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge desires to remain autonomous within its jurisdiction and to operate hereafter as heretofore with its own Grand Master and other Grand Lodge Officers, Constitution, By-Laws, Ritual, Rules and Regulations, and to retain its absolute and supreme sovereignty over its own Subordinate Lodges and Membership;

    AND WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is advised that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge entertains the same desires and possesses the same satisfaction with regard to recognition by it of The Grand Lodge and desires that both Grand Lodges mutually recognize each other as duly constituted Masonic Grand Lodges;

    AND WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is advised that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge at its Annual Communication in 2004 passed a resolution extending fraternal recognition to The Grand Lodge in the same manner and on the same terms as the present resolution, NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND LODGE OF ANCIENT, FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF NORTH CAROLINA THAT:

    1. It hereby extends fraternal recognition to The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Its Jurisdictions, Inc., as a duly constituted Masonic Grand Lodge;

    2. It will remain autonomous within its jurisdiction and will operate hereafter as heretofore with its own Grand Master and other Grand Lodge Officers, Constitution, ByLaws, Ritual, Rules and Regulations and will retain its absolute and supreme sovereignty over its own Subordinate Lodges and Membership.

    41 Grand Lodges have voted favorably toward recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodges (80%) 10 GL's have not yet done so (20%).

    Source: Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland and Paul Bessel.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2011
  2. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    Thank you for sharing this with us Brother!
     
  3. fairmanjd

    fairmanjd Registered User

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    I am a Florida Mason; though my lodge is all white, it's not because of any policy. Any black, white, red, yellow, pink and purple polka dotted man may petition and count on a fair ballot as long as he believes in God and is a morally upright individual. I was passed by conferral at one of the area lodges. I was conducted by a Mexican gentleman. An elderly black man was the chaplain. The junior deacon was Samoan. And I'm a hick. The PHA lodges are the same way here. It really chaps my a-- that the author is making this an issue of race. Its not that black and white (pun intended)
     
  4. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Thank you. I agree 100%.
     
  5. Ceasare

    Ceasare Premium Member

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    Informative.
     
  6. Michaelstedman81

    Michaelstedman81 Premium Member

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    I gotta be honest cause I have a question (ha, yes another question from me...lol). From the get go in my Masonic journey, I have always heard that the blacks only go to Prince Hall and have even heard that whites are not allowed in Prince Hall (even though I have seen pictures all over the net with white members in Prince Hall lodges). Even with people telling me this, I have honestly NOT ONCE heard a Brother say that he believes there should be a segregation of the two groups going on. All of the Brothers that I have talked to about any of this have told me that they believe we should be full recognizing the Prince Halls and even allowing our black Brethern to join our lodges. Of course, I do need to consider that I haven't talked to EVERY Brother, and also that just because one tells me a specific view that he has doesn't fully mean that he truly believes it or would vote for it.

    I gotta ask, though, why it is that when I have heard so many people in support of getting rid of this seperation has it not happened yet? If the number of people that I have talked to that have the same view are any kind of representation of the numbers on the larger scale, I figure that this would have been cleared up long ago. I mean, I have honestly not heard from one person that opposes this (lucky me, I guess...lol).

    And I can't believe that with me not hearing opposition from a single person, that I have some how just been lucky enough to talk to the only guys out there that are in favor of getting rid of the seperation. Is it just because there are so many of the "old heads" that are still in the position to vote that is preventing this from going through?

    Also, thanks for the orginal thread post. It was a very good read! And pretty cool picture, too...lol
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2011
  7. Geeksgalore

    Geeksgalore Registered User

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    you mean supreme being, not God. God is just a label for ones definition of their supreme being.

     
  8. Bro. David F. Hill

    Bro. David F. Hill David F. Hill Premium Member

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    My cousin in MN have had full recognition for some time and my younger brother in OH has visitation but as of this date we here in Texas are not allowed to even talk to each other let alone visit. When we took our oaths, there was no mention of only associating with brothers of one affiliation or the other. I realize that there are those of both GL's that like things just the way they are but if we are to continue to exist and be relevant we must bury these differences. In closing, remember this, We can accomplish so much more working together than we can working separately.
     
  9. fairmanjd

    fairmanjd Registered User

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    Thankfully, in my area, as far as I know, we are not prohibited from associating with one another. We just cannot "officially" recognize each other as regular Masons (which I indeed hope to see changed). That being said, there is nothing that says we can't meet as friends and discuss the craft. The only thing prohibited from discussion would be the secret aspects of the work. And there is so much more to Masonry than the secret work.
     
  10. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Sounds like Texas.
     
  11. MikeMay

    MikeMay Premium Member

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    I know several PH Masons...we associate, we discuss...we know there are certain things we cannot discuss, but we also know in time we will be able to...and it hasn't hurt our friendship, in fact it has made it a bit stronger than it otherwise would have been because we have common goals as brothers...
     
  12. Geeksgalore

    Geeksgalore Registered User

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    correct me if I am wrong, but I remember the first question asked of me when I was an EA. Where was I first made a Mason? I then answered, "in my heart, worshipful sir"! It boggles me to see some people forget the OB they took. Being a Mason has nothing to do with Religion or Politics, PERIOD! I was asked 3 questions at my review, not one of them was do I believe in GOD or Government. I was however asked if I believe in a supreme being, which I do, it just is not the man made version of it.
     
  13. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    What does this have to do with masons having problems with race relations? Are you answering a question from another thread? Please stay on topic.
     
  14. Brent Heilman

    Brent Heilman Premium Member

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    I was going to say the same thing but since I am still a relative newbie here I didn't. I knew however someone would, thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone using Freemasonry
     
  15. Bro. David F. Hill

    Bro. David F. Hill David F. Hill Premium Member

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    What I believe he is trying to say is the same thing that I mentioned earlier. There was no mention of AF&AM or F&AM in the obligations. We were only asked if this was of our own free will. We need to solve these differences. There is much that both affiliations can learn from each other and that can only make us all better Masons. Though they probably will not merge, it would be nice to be a part of both and work towards that common goal of helping others.
     
  16. Geeksgalore

    Geeksgalore Registered User

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    here here Brother! Well said, here in Canada we do not have that problem, the square is open to all if they pass investigation and proper ballot. I was very embarrassed one time when we went to the states OHIO to put on a Canadian 3rd degree, we had a past member attend with us and he is black, he was denied entrance and shunned, I left with him because I was sickened! The OB I took I will never forget and stand by it TRUE!

     
  17. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    I think there might be some misunderstanding. Black masons are welcome in Texas Lodges, as long as they are members of a lodge that is recognized by the Grand Lodge. This is the same for white masons. Since I am neither, I guess that this goes for red masons as well. BTW, did you notice that I did not say what type of Grand Lodge. Prince Hall Lodges allow brown, red, yellow, black and white masons to attend as long as their Grand Lodge recognizes the visitors lodge. My Grand Lodge, usually known as GLoT, does the same. We have even had a black worhshipful master in a lodge nearby. Prince Hall has issues with other non-regular "black" lodges. We have a problem with "white" clandestine lodges. If a regular black mason comes to our lodge to visit, we cannot refuse his admission. We can close the lodge and go home, but we allow all regular masons to enter. I think there is a lot of misguided, misinformed discussion here. Maybe we need to figure out what the actual current state of affairs is before we go out there and try to change it. We might be fighting to change something that is already fixed and missing something that needs to be fixed.
     
  18. owls84

    owls84 Moderator Premium Member

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    We had a Past Master of our Lodge demit and go to a PH Lodge in the area. He was white. We also have a Black man going to the east next year. Times are changing in some parts of Masonry but there is much work to be done and we are still a long way to get there.
     
  19. barryguitar

    barryguitar Registered User

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    Regularity is defined by the descent of charter, and where that first charter came from. Most Grand Lodges in the south descend from charters from the ancient English Grand Lodge. Some, like Pennsylvania, descend from Scottish Lodges. Killwinning Lodge for example, chartered many early lodges here in America. Where did Prince Hall get his Charter to Make Masons and charter lodges?
    The Question has nothing -at all- to do with Race. It is about regularity.
     
  20. Bro. David F. Hill

    Bro. David F. Hill David F. Hill Premium Member

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    This has been the question that keeps being brought up. The following is from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Massachusetts. Regularity is no longer an issue. Recognition is.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRINCE HALL FREEMASONRY IN MASSACHUSETTS
    On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and 14 men of color were made masons in Lodge #441 of the Irish Registry attached to the 38th British Foot Infantry at Castle William Island in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. It marked the first time that Black men were made masons in America.

    About a year later, since the conflict between England and America had commenced, the British Foot Infantry left Boston, along with its lodge, leaving Prince Hall and his associates without a lodge. Before the lodge left, Worshipful Master Batt, gave them a "permit" to meet as a lodge and bury their dead in manner and form. This permit, however, did not allow them to do any "masonic work" or to take in any new members.
    Under it, African Lodge was organized on July 3, 1776, with Prince Hall as the worshipful master. It wasn't long before this lodge received an additional "permit" from Provincial Grand Master John Rowe to walk in procession on St. John's Day.

    On March 2, 1784, African Lodge #1 petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, the Premier or Mother Grand Lodge of the world, for a warrant (or charter), to organize a regular masonic lodge, with all the rights and privileges thereunto prescribed.

    The Grand Lodge of England issued a charter on September 29, 1784 to African Lodge #459, the first lodge of Blacks in America.

    African Lodge #459 grew and prospered to such a degree that Worshipful Master Prince Hall was appointed a Provincial Grand Master, in 1791, and out of this grew the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge.

    In 1797 he organized a lodge in Philadelphia and one in Rhode Island. These lodges were designated to work under the charter of African Lodge #459.

    In December 1808, one year after the death of Prince Hall, African Lodge #459 (Boston), African Lodge #459 (Philadelphia) and Hiram Lodge #3 (Providence) met in a general assembly of the craft and organized African Grand Lodge (sometime referred to as African Grand Lodge #I).

    In 1847, out of respect for their founding father and first Grand Master, Prince Hall, they changed their name to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the name it carries today. In 1848 Union Lodge #2, Rising Sons of St. John #3 and Celestial Lodge #4 became the first lodges organized under the name Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
    From these beginnings, there now are some 5,000 lodges and 47 grand lodges who trace their lineage to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

    Honorable Brother Leslie A. Lewis., is the 66th Most Worshipful Grand Master for Massachusetts, and carries on the tradition started by Bro. Prince Hall over 200 years ago.
    More detailed History by RW Raymond T. Coleman

    Lecture by PMWGM on Restoration of Amity
     
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