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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division

Prince Hall

Mystery and uncertainty shrouds much of Prince Hall's early life (1735?-1807). Some recent scholarship cast doubt upon previous certitude that Hall was born in Barbados, that his father was an Englishman and his mother was of African descent, and that he came to America in 1765. Present evidence proposes that he was the slave of William Hall, a craftsman in Boston - a city that had a preponderance of Barbadian slaves - and was manumitted in 1770. What is not disputed is that, when denied admission to St. John's Lodge of freemasons in Boston, Hall and fourteen other free African-American men petitioned and received entry to a British army lodge of freemasons. In 1784, Hall applied for a charter from the London Grand Lodge and in 1787 received full recognition, establishing African Lodge 459. In addition to serving as a principal organizer of black Masonry in America, he petitioned for the abolition of the slave trade in Massachusetts and demanded that citizenship be extended to blacks. After Hall's death, members of the fraternal order named the fraternity after him, Prince Hall Masons, which remains the largest black order in the nation.

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