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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