Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Prince Hall Masons intervisit with mainstream Maryland brothers

A Masonic event of historic importance occurred recently in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Friendship Lodge No. 84 recently hosted a visit from members of Oak Springs Lodge No. 41, Prince Hall Freemasonry. This was the first time members of the two local lodges met together. More than 70 Master Masons from three states attended.

They met together in tyled lodge to witness the Master Mason degree conferred, the Herald-Mail reported.

Masons in attendance included M.W. Bro. John Biggs, the Grand Master of Masons in Maryland and R.W. Bro. Melvin Thorpe, senior grand warden of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland.

Prince Hall Masonry is primarily made of black men. Mainstream Freemasonry in the United States is predominantly made up of white men, and the two Masonic streams have been segregated since Prince Hall's inception in the late 1700s. In 1989, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut became the first mainstream grand lodge to recognize Prince Hall Masonry. Since that time, all the mainstream grand lodges outside the Old South have recognized Prince Hall. The Grand Lodge of Texas was the most recent holdout to finally recognize Prince Hall members as Masons, in 2007. Delaware finally recognized Prince Hall Masonry a year before that, in 2006.

The remaining states that do not recognize Prince Hall are Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida.

A Mason from the non-recognition states — from either mainstream or Prince Hall Masonry — is subject to suspension or expulsion from the fraternity for sitting in a tyled lodge of the other group, or for allowing a member of the opposite group to sit in his lodge.

Recently, it has been reported that mainstream Bro. Charles Martin, who held/holds dual membership in Kentucky and New York, has been expelled from Masonry by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky for sitting in a Prince Hall lodge while serving in the American military in Iraq. At present, this report is unconfirmed, though it is known that the Grand Secretary of the Kentucky Grand Lodge wrote Bro. Martin to inform him that charges of unmasonic conduct had been filed against him. The outcome of those charges is unknown to me at this time. It was stated on some blogs that he had been expelled; on other blogs it was said his trial had been postponed.

I was made a Mason in Georgia, and as long as I hold membership in a lodge working under the Grand Lodge of Georgia, I too would be subject to charges of unmasonic conduct should I attend a tyled Prince Hall lodge in Georgia. I find this racist policy abhorrent; refusal to recognize legitimate Masons as Masons should be considered unmasonic conduct, not the welcoming of each other as true brothers. The situation here in Georgia is so bad that I would bet dollars to donuts that were I to invite an African-American brother, even though he be a member of a recognized, mainstream Masonic lodge in, say New York, he would not be allowed to be my guest in my lodge. Such is the state of Freemasonry in Dixie.

My hat's off to the brothers in Maryland, for finally getting together with each other. The article says this was the first time these two lodges had gotten together; I don't know if other Maryland lodges have intervisited like this before. The Maryland grand lodges only recognized each other in 2003, and a joint proclamation of mutual recognition was only made in 2005, according to Bro. Paul Bessel's website.

Image: The cover of the recording "Rain Down Love" by the British musical duo Freemasons

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  1. How fascinating!

    20 years ago in Connecticut, the first AF&AM and PH intervisitation was done by Ionic Lodge (PH) and ... Friendship Lodge.

    Must be something about the name ;-)

  2. Maryland Masons, PHA and Mainstream, for want of a better word, have been in amity for a couple of years, and intervisitation is occurring more and more often. The historic nature of this meeting is that it was the raising of brethren to the Sublime Degree.

    I have attended several semi-annual communications of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, and in each case the MW Grand Lodge of Maryland, Prince Hall was represented by their Grand Line, and received in the Grand East. The two Grand Masters are Grand friends as well. Additionally, the Grand Line of Washington D.C., and the MW Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. have been represented at several, and include AA Masons in both cases.

    Maryland is south of the Mason Dixon Line, in fact it's our northern border. One of the reasons Maryland is called the Free State (among others) is that freemen of color, prior to the emancipation proclaimation, had full rights of free men, including rights of property in Maryland. We were a slave state, however, and it required a coup d'etat to keep us in the Union (also the only U.S. State to be ruled by Martial Law - via Ben Butler)

    Things are going in the right direction here, and should be looked at closely by other southron states.

    Steve Brettell,
    Birmingham #188
    Gr. Lodge of Maryland AF&AM

  3. Steve, thanks for clarifying. I was wondering why it had taken so long to visit, but see that's not the case at all.

    It should be mentioned that someone in my GL would be up on charges if he visited any Lodge we don't recognise, which includes a number in Europe at last check.

    Note to Tom .. Friendship Lodge in B.C. no longer exists, so it was up to Grandview Lodge to be the first to invite our PH bros. to pay a fraternal visit. As I was at the meeting, it was indeed a grand view.. and overdue.

    I was at the last local PH meeting and have even had the pleasure of taking part in a FC Degree there a few years ago.

    Justa Mason

  4. I've been to 3 PH MM Degrees, the best of the best without question..

  5. As a mason under the Grand Lodge of Kentucky I am truly amazed at the attacks that you guys are constantly pouring on us "racist" southerners. You know, I'm betting you guys would bring charges against a brother who went to Lodge with one of those new Grand Orient guys, wouldn't you?

    Why is it that you see fit to make special exception for an irregular lodge because of the predominant race of that lodge? We have African-American brothers in the KY Grand Lodge, but we're still supposed to endorse another lodge system because if we don't then we're racists. Makes no sense to me.

    If we're going to talk about Brotherly Love, then let's stop the hate spewing out of so many mouths of men I would normally call "brother" against me because of the state I live in. I do take it personal.

    Yes, race relations are still touchy in the south, but just because we don't recognize PH like the big fad that you other 39 states went through doesn't mean every member is inherently racist.

  6. to lee
    yes it does

    lie down with dogs
    walk away with fleas

  7. Bro. Coursey,

    You should take it personally.

    Prince Hall Freemasonry isn't irregular. It is recognized by 40 U.S. grand lodges. Brotherly love between all Masons isn't a "fad"; it's the way things should be.

    You don't have to "endorse" another lodge system if you don't want to, but for your grand lodge to file charges against Bro. Martin in Iraq for attending a Prince Hall lodge is pure bullshit. To follow the "rules" of Freemasonry while ignoring the tenet of brotherly love shows your grand lodge is a slave to form and not substance.

    As a fellow southerner, I would have to say the same thing about the Grand Lodge of Georgia.

    When I visited a lodge in Connecticut last year, I was asked my views on the inherent racism in the Georgia Masonic system. Our more enlightened non-southern brethren don't consider recognition of black Masons as a passing fad. They take it seriously, as should all Masons.

    If you're going to remain a Kentucky Mason and travel elsewhere, including to this blog, you're going to have to be ready to defend your grand lodge's views, or be willing to say that you don't agree with them, as I have.

    — W.S.

  8. Geeh, I am sure that Prince Hall Mason's don't condsider being black a passing fad.


    Would those be segregated fleas or non-segregated fleas your talking about?

  9. Prince Hall Freemasonry isn't irregular. It is recognized by 40 U.S. grand lodges.

    WS, let me offer up a responsible opposing viewpoint. To Bro. Lee, PH Masonry is irregular because GLKY is not one of those 40 other states. The reasoning behind it notwithstanding, he - and Masons from those other states - have an obligation to uphold the laws and regulations of their respective GLs. Until such time as KY changes those rules, those Masons who abide by the current rules should not be vilified.

    That said, if enough people internally continue to pressure their GL to change, then eventually it will happen. Our standing around, pointing fingers at brothers who have no direct say or decision making power may not be the best use of our time and energy.

  10. Bro. Tom,

    The incorrect Wikipedia definition notwithstanding, regularly and recognition in Freemasonry are two different subjects, as the late W. Bro. Theron Dunn explained in his Sept. 2007 blog entry "Regularity vs. Recognition."

    Prince Hall Freemasonry is regular in form; that is, they do things according to Masonic traditions. Many American Prince Hall lodges are recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England (which also recognizes and is recognized by the Grand Lodges of Georgia, Kentucky, and in fact all U.S. "mainstream" grand lodges) as well as many other European and Down Under Grand Lodges.

    Then there's the whole debate over whether we have a duty to obey unjust laws — criminal, civil or Masonic.

    In the U.S., generally speaking, we voice our opinion to our leaders when we feel a law is unjust or unfair, via public letters to editors, by contacting our legislators and elected officials, by petition, by the voting booth, and sometimes by civil disobedience. The same should be done within the Masonic system.

    As for whether Bro. Coursey should speak up against the current rules of his jurisdiction, that's up to him. I wouldn't have even responded to his comments had he not complained that "you guys" (which, I assume, included me) keep "attacking" Southern Masons. As a Southern Mason, I had to reply. My "attacks" are from within. If he is truly non-racist, I would think that as a practitioner of Masonry, he would be adding his voice to those of the other "attackers" in saying institutional racism in Freemasonry is wrong and should be changed.

    — W.S.

  11. Yeah, I didn't want to get into the whole irregular vs clandestine vs unrecognized definition thing. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that PH in KY is regular in form.

    Anyway, your "attacks" are not coming from Kentucky, so in that respect, you are also "outside" in that discussion. Bro. Lee probably feels - and rightly so - that he is being excoriated simply for being a member of a lodge over which he has no say over the rules. In fact, if he chooses to be technical about it (which apparently he has done), to him, PH is not recognized, and to suggest that he welcome PH contact is akin to him telling, say, you or I that we should welcome contact with Co-Masons. And on that point, he's correct.

    I think an analogy might be a Microsoft employee who is constantly berated by his friends for not using Linux ;-)

    Note that I'm not disagreeing with your own point: that there is no good reason for mainstream GLs to not recognize their PH counterparts. I'm merely suggesting that calling the entire GL system "racist" might be counterproductive.

  12. Counterproductive?

    Treating those states as regular upright masons hasn't been productive!?

    Sometimes shaming others into doing what is right is necessary.
    Any attempt at defense of the jimcrow status quo should result in emnarrassment.

    oh, SQ, Flea do not segregate, a carcass is a carcass is a carcass. I believe fleas are colored blind. I bet the fleas run from kentucky dog's though, they leave a bad taste in their mouths from what I hear!=]

  13. Being only recently passed to the degree of FC and currently being mentored for examination I will not argue points of racism or right and wrong.

    But one thing that I do know is that in the 1700's when the first GL of PH masons applied for charter via the Grand Lodge of England it was approved and sanctioned. But after a year of membership the PH Grand Lodge had stopped submitting their dues and per capita taxes so then the England Grand Lodge pulled their charter and they were no longer recognized as regular lodge in FreeMasonry. Further more it is of all Grand Lodge charters and National charter that there can be only "one" regular Grand Lodge that holds weigh over constituent lodges of that state.

    And to those of you who would call us racist because we are members of southern lodges, I say to you remember your obligation and not bring judgment to a fellow brother without first giving him due time and warning to his face or in private before you publicly pass judgment of what you clearly have not done your research on.

    And in no way to I mean to offend any of my fellow brothers or brothers of Prince Hall Lodges. This is just research and my personal opinion on the topic at hand.

  14. Those are some rather wise words from a FC.

  15. Steven please re-research the info you placed on PH being dropped from the rolls. You will also find that just about all Lodges (to include MS) were dropped also. Also, if black men were allowed to join Masonry back then, there probably would have never been PHA. You can't say there can only be one and not allow certain races to join. Also look up some of the GL's founding date. You will find out that sometimes PH was established in a state first. So with that argument some MS GL's should not be recognized.

  16. Steven wrote:
    But one thing that I do know is that in the 1700's when the first GL of PH masons applied for charter via the Grand Lodge of England it was approved and sanctioned. But after a year of membership the PH Grand Lodge had stopped submitting their dues and per capita taxes so then the England Grand Lodge pulled their charter and they were no longer recognized as regular lodge in FreeMasonry.

    The years are a bit off, but that's only part of what happened. The two Grand Lodges in England joined together in 1813 and shortly thereafter, erased all American Lodges still left on their register (there is a complete list in History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, published in 1890, pgs. 209 to 215). A number of those Lodges still operate today, including the oldest Lodges in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. As well, the UGLE has, for some time now, recognised numerous Prince Hall Grand Lodges, just as it recognises my Grand Lodge and (presumably) yours.

    Further more it is of all Grand Lodge charters and National charter that there can be only "one" regular Grand Lodge that holds weigh over constituent lodges of that state.

    I have no idea what "National charter" you are talking about, but what has become known as the American Doctrine of Exclusive Jurisdiction is, in jurisdictions with which I'm familiar, something in a GL constitution, which can be amended to read otherwise.

    The Doctrine took its rise in the 19th century as a way to check clandestine organisations, especially Cerneau Lodges.

    Justa Mason

  17. Greating Fraternal Brothers and unworthy brothers

    i am a P.H.A. Master Mason that was made in Georgia, Honestley no black man of the craft worthy, annd qualified or not will mke it pass the door of a white lodge. Personally I think that most of the white lodges that don't recognize worthy masons are using the Masonic lodge to hold KKK meetings in and really and truely hate blacks. When ever I have my light on and a Black mason see it the great me with brotherly love and when a white mason sees it they look down to the floor.
    The point is in any masonic Lodge there shouldn't be a color white or black only dark blue of light blue.

  18. As a biracial man living in Kentucky I have been subjected to the lines of racism all of my life. It is unfortunately part of who I am, part of what makes me. I am not currently a mason but without a doubt i look for the place where i, and many others can be accepted for the man i am and nothing else. I wish to find a place, a place to find myself. A place to build on the foundation that i have established with my own morality. I have walked with many men and never has the has the color of their skin reflected the content of their character. We as MEN who are seeking a path to confirm our identity and realize our dreams ALL have alot to learn. I hope to find a lodge that would accept me with the realization of what they are going to recieve in turn. and for the record racism isnt just a Kentucky thing or a black, white thing. The roots of that tree are strong, but I bear my axe. Do you?

  19. mrbroosk502, I'd love for you to contact me sometime. Change is coming to Kentucky.

    excelsiorlodgegousa [at sign] gmail [dot] com

  20. You Can Take Kentucky Off the List:

    Book of Constitutions under Item 5 of the Standing Resolutions, following the list of Grand Representatives.

    Whereas: The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge (PHGL) of Kentucky, F. & A. M. was constituted under a warrant from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio in 1866, and

    Whereas: The membership of PHGL of Kentucky has established a rich tradition of Freemasonry in the Commonwealth, and

    Whereas: The PHGL of Kentucky has petitioned the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, F. & A. M. to recognize their sovereignty over lodges chartered under their authority within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, separately and distinct from the sovereignty of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, and to enter into an informal relationship between the two Grand Lodges, therefore

    Be It Resolved: That the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, F. & A. M. confirms the sovereignty of the Prince Hall Grand lodge of Kentucky, F. & A. M. as a Regular Masonic body in Kentucky, and welcomes an amicable relationship between the two Grand Lodges.


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