Monday, March 13, 2006

1999 speech at the Grand Lodge of Alabama on Prince Hall recognition

According to the blog Free-Mason-Alert: The Sad Truth about Freemasonry in Alabama, in 1999 Brother Alex Harris addressed the Grand Lodge of Alabama with these noble words:
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Grand Wardens, Brethren,

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to say to you today. There are so many issues that could be addressed regarding recognition of Prince Hall Masonry. Eventually though, the argument always comes back to race. So I decided to acknowledge that fact and to stop trying so hard to avoid it. Some may be offended by the observations I am about to make. Some because they have watched quietly as their beloved Masonry has been used as a front for something they would never be a part of. Others because they will realize I am describing them and they have spent their lives convincing themselves they do not hold those views. And still others, who do not hide the fact they are racist, will be very upset because these statements will threaten the existence of our lodges as "whites only."

Many Masons have told me they could not support this resolution because their lodge will not support it. Others believe in recognition but are honest enough to admit they do not have the courage to stand up in lodge and say so. And still others believe in recognition but they will not support it because they feel Alabama is not ready for it.

Since when are we concerned about whether the population is "ready" to give up something that is blatantly wrong? Is not part of being a Mason having the courage to stand up for what is just and right, regardless of the consequences? Didn't we learn that from the Masonic founding fathers of our country? Of course, Alabama has been desegregated for over thirty years. We're ready. Brethren, this is 1999. The country has been integrated for a generation. The world has been integrated a lot longer than that.

Masons in the rest of the world, and the United States for that matter, can't fathom our refusal to accept Prince Hall Masons. The issue is gaining momentum. So far recognition has been granted, or is being negotiated, in thirty US Jurisdictions, seven Canadian jurisdictions and nine other foreign jurisdictions. The United Grand Lodge of England has recognized Prince Hall Masonry in eighteen jurisdictions. This means that every possible argument against recognition has already been debated and refuted in other jurisdictions and there is not a legitimate Masonic reason to deny recognition to Prince Hall Masonry.

My fear is that one day other jurisdictions will withdraw recognition from Alabama because they believe us to be clandestine since we refuse to recognize the brotherhood of all men. If you think it can't happen, talk to Masons in other jurisdictions. They are discussing it. Will their Grand Lodges take action? I do not know. If they do not address our lack of action then someone, somewhere, will do the same thing we have done here today. They will feel their Grand Lodge is ignoring a vital issue and propose a resolution themselves.

Too many Masons don't want to sit in lodge with blacks. Fine points of Masonry have been perverted to defend racism that would not be tolerated in the rest of society. You do not want to know the statements I have heard since this resolution was proposed. I am going to tell you some of them anyway because they should be heard.

You need to know what Masonry is harboring today. A Past Master told me there are lodges I should not visit because I might not make it out of there. Another Past Master stated that "My grand-children may have to go to school with them but I sure won't sit in lodge with them." He also stated that, if this resolution passes, he and all his sons would be forced to leave Masonry and that we would lose at least half our members. I have been asked "what is going on at your lodge with all this 'nigger' talk." I have been asked if I wanted to sit in lodges with "blue-gums." I have never heard that racial slur before, so I guess this has been an educational process too.
I want to respond to a few of the statements you just heard. First and foremost... if, because I favor recognition, I would be in physical danger... then Masonry does not exist here anymore. Second... anyone who would leave Masonry, because Prince Hall Masonry is granted recognition, is a Mason in title only. Its lessons are obviously not in their hearts. We may lose a large number of members if the resolution passes. So mote it be. Let them trade their aprons for white sheets with hoods. We are better off without them.

There are those who are livid with me right now. They are thinking, "How dare he say that!" or "Saying things like that is a Masonic offense!" or "He should remember his obligation!" My response is this... If speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular, is a Masonic offense, I am guilty and you should expel me because I am going to continue speaking these truths until we do the right thing.

My dear brethren... We are men, but more than that we are Masons, but more than that we are the creation of the Great Architect Of The Universe. Let us not sully his creation by letting it be associated with evil actions or beliefs. Have the courage to STAND UP and say you will do what is right. STAND UP and say you will no longer allow the order to be used to perpetuate racism. STAND UP and announce that we believe in the brotherhood of ALL men. But most importantly, remember the trowel you were presented with at your raising... remember what it teaches us... and then stand up and vote that Prince Hall Masonry is now, and always has been, a legitimate branch of Masonry that the Grand Lodge of Alabama should grant full fraternal recognition to.

Thank you.

A second post at the Free-Mason-Alert blog asks readers to "Ask the Grand Lodge."
  1. Ask them if they will Recognize African Americans as Freemasons.

  2. Ask them if they will Remove the 1876 Resolution & Declare it wrong.

  3. Ask them if they support the Toleration Statement.
Toleration Statement

The brotherhood of all mankind is a beautiful idea, but is it really possible? What could bring about such a utopian concept? Throughout the centuries the greatest philosophical minds have struggled with this difficult question. Whole systems of government and religion have been developed with this single aim in mind, but yet none have succeeded. Is mankind doomed to be forever separated by the uniqueness of each individual?

A quick and easy solution for making people unite is to create a common enemy. At first this approach works very well and will unite people for the purpose of security and survival. This method, however, is flawed because it is rooted in the creation of fear, and it requires that some other group of men, by necessity, be the source of that fear. Eventually fear begins to feed upon itself and the society is destroyed from within.

Another method of uniting people is through conformity to a religious or social system. This system works well for those who agree with the system because they willingly conform to the religious dogmas or social values. Those who disagree with the system are labeled heretics or radicals. As time passes this method results in the persecution of those people unwilling to conform with the system, and almost always ends in violence and death.

Speculative Free-Masonry is a product of the Age of Enlightenment. Its founders were the predecessors of men such as the American founding fathers. They realized an eternal truth about the nature of being human - we are all unique individuals with different perspectives about life and the cosmos. This simple truth led them to create a beautiful system for uniting people with diverse ideas, religions, and customs through the principle of Universal Tolerance. Thus, Speculative Free-Masonry is neither a union for security, nor a union of conformity, but a Union of Diversity.
Universal Tolerance is the very Cornerstone of the Masonic Temple, without it Free-Masonry is no different than the scores of other organizations that demand conformity with some dogma or social order. Unfortunately, many Free-Masons have removed this Cornerstone from their Temples, and the results have been catastrophic. Since 1963 American Free-Masonry has declined in membership by 50%, and new members quickly leave due to the prevailing conformist attitude of these brothers and their Lodges.

Current Grand Lodge officers and their email addresses:

Most Worshipful Grand Master Frank W. Little

Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master Jamie A. Smith

Right Worshipful Senior Grand Warden Larry Stinson"

Right Worshipful Junior Grand Warden Teddy Grogan"

Noble goals enumerated in the Mission Statement of the Grand Lodge of Alabama include "promot[ing] Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love throughout the state..." and "to promote Honor, Integrity and Truth to all men."

Twenty-six percent of Alabama's population is black, over twice the U.S. average. It seems the Grand Lodge of Alabama could find plenty of new men to "promote honor, integrity and truth to" if they'd just recognize black Masons.

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  1. Brother thank you for being the man you were raised to be ! The truth is the light. so motto it be ! Bro. A.Jordan Council Lodge #778 PHA Alabama

  2. if he is so mad and upset that prince hall masonry is not recognized by Alabama and many other states, why didn't he just join them in the first place. I think Alex Harris just wants to start trouble. putting this article online isn't going to make us want to recognize the prince hall fraternity.

  3. My Masonic Oath is before my eyes in every daily moment. There are no references to color in the oath I swore. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. That's why we learn to identify each other in the dark.

  4. I will say this, I am not at all a racist. But recognition is not the answer. Recognition is nothing more than seperate but equal AKA segregation. Segregation has been abolished more than a half century now. The other problem with recognition is that there is only one Grand Masonic Jurisdiciton in any state. Other Jurisdictions only recognize one Sovern Grand Lodge per state, and that lodge is the Regular lodge who's origins lie in 1717 England. My other observation is that in my state of Georgia, there is no law or eddict that says a black man cannot be a mason in our lodge. So you may be asking yourself, well what is the answer? The answer is that if Prince Hall petitioned to be accepted in to our lodge system by denouncing their clandestane history, and submit to our constitutions laws and eddicts rather than wanting recognition of a lodge system that never was regular then you would be surprized at the results. Is there really one grand lodge that would be willing to say no? If they do then that is real racism. So don't say that just because I do not want to purpetuate segregation that me or my grand lodge is racist. I have given you the only equitable solution, lets see who else recognizes this truth.

    P.S. There will be those who will dimit from masonry but as the mason who stood in the grand lodge of alabama and spoke his mind said, we do not need those masons any way. In my opinion we need strong leadership in our grand lodges and subordinate blue lodges if we want to change.

    Jeremy Wilson
    Senior Steward
    Clarence H. Cohen # 749
    Martinez, Ga

  5. Bro. Wilson,

    In many jurisdictions Grand Lodges exist side by side in aminity. Having two Grand Lodges is not a problem. Prince Hall Lodges do accept people of all colour. In fact the Grand Master of Ontario's order here in Ontario, Canada is in fact white. The idea that recognition amounts to supporting segregation is a smoke screen. A Brother no matter his Grand Lodge or Orient if good and true should be recognized... period.

  6. Well, here's the problem with saying that Prince Hall Masonry is a lodge system that was never regular in the first place. That statement is entirely false. The Prince Hall lodges were chartered before your Georgia lodge was. Prince Hall himself was chartered to create lodges in the United States by the United Grande Lodge of England in 1776. So, for a Prince Hall Grand Lodge to be "regular" it needs only to have been incorporated by Prince Hall blue lodgesthat were founded by members that can trace their Masonic lineage back to Prince Hall. If this is the case, then Georgia, nor any other state's Grand Lodge has the right, nor the ability to "refuse" them recognition.

    The brother who gave this brilliant speech said he was worried other states would withdraw recognition from the states refusing to recognize Prince Hall lodges. We will. Everywhere else in America and the rest of the world has accepted the legitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry on all grounds and recognized it. But they're heading for bigger troubles. Once this becomes a bigger issue, the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland will start being pressured to remove recognition from the Grand Lodges they chartered in America, making them and every lodge under them clandestine, which is what they are right now, just not in the legal sense.

    The "old guard" mentality and those who further today are quickly reaching the time when they will be put out to pasture, and then quickly forgotten as nothing more than a terrible embarassment to Freemasonry. Your time is over, and it is the new generations time to finally make of Masonry what it was created to be, and that most certainly does not include racism.


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