This paper was written in the 1970s but was not submitted for publication until the early 1990s at a time when several grand lodges had entered into discussions regarding recognition of the Prince Hall grand lodge in their state. The paper was declared a masterpiece by the Phylaxis Society and was the basis for the author being elected an actual fellow of that society.
Ostensibly, there have been racially peaceful periods in America, but at no point since the introduction of forced African labor have Americans been willing voluntarily to assimilate their Black population into the mainstream of American society.
Approaching the dawning of the third millennium of Christian society, American Freemasonry stands as one the last and oldest relics of American racism. Racism has stained American history and the history of this genteel society for centuries, yet many Masons outside the United States and some within are convinced that the issue of race has had no part in the two-century-old schism between the predominantly Black Prince Hall Masons and the so-called "regular" Caucasian Masons of America. This naive misconception is due in part to distortions in the nineteenth century historical accounts of American Freemasonry as that history has touched upon the issue of race. Many of the facts surrounding Black Freemasonry and Black history in general are only recently becoming known as objective researchers reexamine historical evidence that earlier historians either failed to find or refused to report.
Ostensibly, there have been racially peaceful periods in America, but at no point since the introduction of forced African labor have Americans been willing voluntarily to assimilate their Black population into the mainstream of American society. Instead, influential groups of white Americans have erected barriers to obstruct any such assimilation. Gains made among Blacks in America in the search for equal protection under law have been brought about with the help of an elite minority of moral Americans in the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches of government. Not only have such gains been unpopular but the general populace has often resisted them, at times with great violence. Today, blatant racism is less fashionable than it once was, yet White Americans in the 1990's are as resistant to the assimilation of the Black community into American society as equals and peers as they ever were.
Notwithstanding the exalted ideals expressed in the Masonic code, Freemasons generally embrace and reflect the ideals of the society from which it draws its members. Masonry was brought to the shores of North America several decades before the American Colonies split from England to form the American Republic. Black Masonry was established in America a few decades later, more than two centuries ago. During these centuries the attitudes of White Freemasons in America have been typical of those in American society at large; White Masons have made no serious attempt to assimilate Black Masons or to encourage Black membership in their lodges. Indeed, they have sought to discredit Black Masonry through the perpetuation of distorted facts and unsound arguments.
One of their rationalizations is that the Black Order is somehow illegitimate or irregular. It is held among Masons that all regular Masonic Lodges trace their origin or pedigree through the original Grand Lodge of England. The Black order, they say, has been guilty of various irregularities that justify their exclusion from the so-called "regular" order. While advancing these arguments, White Masons avoid having to accept or reject Blacks as members of their lodges by freely referring Black applicants to lodges in the Black order.
The position taken here is that American Freemasonry is racist, and is no less racist than the society that spawned it. The terms "racist" and "racism" are not used disparagingly. They are used in the absence of more suitable terms to describe those patterns of behavior that differentiate between men based on racial and ethnic origin. Racism manifests itself in a range of actions differing in degree, all depending for their proof on the premise that there are differences in the abilities and worth of men caused solely by race. Racism simply imports the unequal treatment of races for reasons having only to do with race. It can vary in degree, the most extreme form being a campaign of racial extermination, as was attempted with the Jews in Nazi Germany. Down on the scale is racial enslavement--a practice perfected and popularized by the Romans and taken to its most extreme and inhumane form in the forced servitude of Africans and their descendants by the colonial territories of Europe. Apartheid and Segregation, which prohibit by law the free association among races is another step on the scale. Farther down on the spectrum of racism is the idea of Racial Supremacy and the collateral idea that certain races are inherently inferior.
As there are levels of racism, so are there varieties of racists who vary in the severity of their attitudes. Not all racists are irrational, obstinate bigots. Not all racists are demented. Having said this, it must be said that racism is morally wrong and it is incompatible with a belief in the brotherhood of man and with Masonic teachings. From what they profess to believe, Masons ought not be racists in any degree; yet it will become clear that, in America, they are indeed.
American history, as presented by historians of the nineteenth century, is not as objective as was once believed. In the words of Phillip Curtin:
...the older history showed only part of the truth. Many human societies remained beyond the horizon. Instead of trying to explain the modem world in terms of its past, or even tracing the rise of human civilization, the older history began with the United States. It then searched for the roots of American civilization. It was, in effect, "history taught backward"--back to the colonial period on this continent, then back to Europe, and still farther back to the Western Middle Ages, Rome, Greece, and the ancient civilizations of the Near East.
Early histories of the United States have obscured the role of racism in America to the extent that even contemporary Americans cannot imagine the extent to which racism persists around them. White Freemasons, some who are otherwise morally responsible men, perpetuate a racially divided fraternity with little thought about the dubious moral grounds on which the system is based.
During the middle of the twentieth century, astute Black historians and objective White historians began to reexamine the roots of American racism and have made it possible to reappraise the distorted history of the Negro and of Black Freemasonry in America. We will now review the racial attitudes of White Americans and White Freemasons considering new historical evidence, and we will show how Americans have erected barriers designed to exclude Blacks from the mainstream of society and Freemasonry. It will become clear that although the barriers have begun to crumble and no longer have their full effect, they do in fact continue into the present and they not only influence the beliefs of Masons in American, but Masons in the International Order as well.
Roman law viewed slavery as a mere accident of which anyone could become the victim. This view, coupled with a belief in the moral and spiritual equality of men, Christian or Pagan, allowed slave owners in the Iberian countries to view their slaves as human beings.
The enslaving of human beings was practiced by the ancient Romans who forced captive human beings, originally Slavs, into involuntary servitude. The institution of slavery survived the Roman Empire and carried into the Middle ages; it was practiced on the Mediterranean Iberian Peninsular before being established in the Western hemisphere and in Northern Europe. Slavery in the Mediterranean Iberian area had no basis in race, but in religion; Christians enslaved Moslems and Moslems enslaved Christians. If Negroes were taken, they were taken on religious rather than racial grounds.
There were, briefly speaking, three slave systems in the western Hemisphere. The British, American, Dutch, and Danish were at one extreme, and the Spanish and Portuguese at the other. In between these two fell the French. The first group is characterized by the fact that they had no effective slave tradition, no slave law, and that their religious institutions were little concerned about the Negro. At the other extreme there were both a slave law and a belief that the spiritual personality of the slave transcended his slave status. In between them the French suffered from the lack of a slave tradition and law, but did have the same religious principles as the Spanish and Portuguese.
In South America and the remainder of Latin America, slaves were eventually freed without revolution and were assimilated into society. In America, freedom for the slaves met with violence and led to anarchy. The difference between the Latin and American systems is summarized by Melvin Drimmer:
In a society where the Negro slave was recognized as a person, however low his present station, that society could also envision him as being a citizen, a free man. In North America and the British West Indies, slaves were reduced to the state of things, completely outside the protection of the church, the courts and law, and the state.
Negroes were introduced into the American Colonies in 1619, only twelve years after Captain John Smith and 105 cavaliers established the first permanent settlement one year before the landing of the Plymouth Pilgrims. Carl Degler shows that an inferior status was accorded to the Negro in America from the very beginning. Indentured servitude was common in that period; in return for passage to the Americas, an individual would remain in servitude for a set period, often seven years. Servitude for English indentured servants was not transferable to their heirs. Some early historical accounts of this period have speculated that slavery did not exist until 1660, when the first slave law was enacted, that the Negro was an indentured servant, and that he was treated as such. Degler shows that this was not so and claims that the Negro was debased from the beginning. Degler finds evidence that as early as 1630 the servitude of some Negroes was for life and was inheritable.
In 1630, a little more than a decade after Negroes were brought to the Americas, a certain Hugh Davis was whipped for defiling his body by laying with a Negro. Davis was punished because his act was considered "unChristian." Such incidents and frequent references to the Negro as Pagans suggests that the status of the Negro resulted from his non-Christian faith. The Negro's denigration may have had its basis in race or in religion, but there is little difference in the effect it had. The American Indians were enslaved as pagans, but faced with new diseases from both Europe and Africa, fell to epidemic after epidemic. When it became clear that the African Negroes were more resistant to European diseases than the Indian, Negroes were abducted from Africa in increasing numbers.
The status of the Negro was soon codified in law. In 1640, Virginia passed a law encouraging citizens to carry arms and that their servants be armed (except Negroes). By 1656 it became lawful for Englishmen to kill "without mercye" any Negro seen at night without a pass, and by 1669, an African slave had virtually lost the protection of law. By this time, most slaves were captive Africans and the terms "slave" and "Negro" were used interchangeably. A 1680 Virginia law includes the phrase "Negro or other slave." A 1669 South Carolina law prevented a Negro from improving his status when he abandoned his African religion: "Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his Negro slaves, of what opinion or religion so ever." Within half a century, the basis for slavery in America changed from one of religious and cultural differences to one of race and skin color.
The system worked out by the Americans was designed for derogation and denied the moral equality of the slave. The inferior status accorded slaves by law and the fact that most slaves were Negroes produced predictable and unfortunate results for all Negroes
The American colonist had not inherited slave laws and a slave tradition as had the Spanish and Portuguese Colonists; they therefore had to establish their own. The system worked out by the Americans was designed for derogation and denied the moral equality of the slave. The inferior status accorded slaves by law and the fact that most slaves were Negroes produced predictable and unfortunate results for all Negroes. As Degler points out:
Once the English embodied their discrimination against the Negro in slave law, the logic of the law took over. Through the early eighteenth century, Judges and legislators in all the colonies elaborated the law along the discriminatory lines laid down in the amorphous beginnings. In doing so, of course, especially in the South, they had the added incentive of perpetuating and securing a labor system which by then had become indispensable to the economy. The cleavage between the races was in that manner deepened and hardened into the shape which became quite familiar by the nineteenth century. In due time, particularly in the South, the correspondence between the black man and slavery would appear so perfect that it would be difficult to believe that the Negro was fitted for anything other than the degraded status in which he was almost always found. It would also be forgotten that the discrimination had begun long before slavery had come upon the scene.
When was the Negro first seen as something other than a human being? There is no easy answer. It is clear that the Negro was abused compared with the English indentured servants from the very beginning. It is also clear that the Negro was enslaved very soon after his arrival in the colonies and acquired the status of "property." By 1690 slaves were decreed to be real.estate in South Carolina, and a Virginia law of 1705 declared "Negro, Mulatto and Indian slaves ... to be real estate."
The English Grand Lodge of Freemasonry, the Mother Grand Lodge of the international order, was established in 1717. At that time the Negro had been enslaved in America for almost a century and his legal and social status had deteriorated to that of a sub-species. The status of the free Negro in America was only slightly better than that of a slave as many of the slave laws made no distinction between a "Negro" and a "slave."
Masonry was brought to the Colonies in the 1730's and was reserved exclusively for the White race for nearly half a century. During the period between 1730 and 1775, the attitude of White America toward the Negro declined steadily. In 1731, the English philosopher and clergyman George Berkeley reported after spending three years in Rhode Island that American slaveholders had "an irrational contempt of the Blacks, as creatures of another species, who had no right to be instructed or admitted to the sacrament." If the Negro had been debased originally because of religious intolerance, his new status was based on racial intolerance that was turning to racial contempt.
The contemptuous attitude toward the Negro had a profound effect on his development--psychologically, emotionally and intellectually. Drimmer refers to the effect as "psychological castration." Stanley Elkins describes the typical Negro Slave of the eighteenth century as "Sambo," whom he characterizes as docile, irresponsible, lazy, "chronically given to lying and stealing; his behavior was full of infantile silliness and his talk inflated with childish exaggeration. His relationship with his master was one of utter dependence and childlike dependence. ..." Elkins went on to show that personality changes observed in Nazi concentration camps are described in similar terms:
The prisoners developed types of behavior which are characteristic of infancy or early youth ... their humor was shot with silliness and they giggled like children when one of them would expel wind.… Now they suddenly appeared to be pathological liars ... then dishonesty, mendacity, egotistic actions in order to obtain more food or to get out of scrapes reach full development, and theft becomes a veritable affliction of camp life.
Such were the attitudes of White Americans toward Negroes when the first Negroes were initiated into Masonry in 1775. These Black men were initiated not by an American Lodge but by a British military lodge serving in the Colonies. When these Black Masons received a Charter authorizing them to meet as a Masonic body and to organize a Masonic Lodge, this Charter was granted not by the American Provincial Grand Lodge but by the Mother Grand Lodge of England. Before 1775 Blacks had been excluded from Masonry in the American colonies; after 1775 Blacks were excluded from White American Lodges for a century, and for another century were admitted in trivial numbers, in Isolated parts of the country, and in racially segregated Lodges.
Little is known of the ties that existed between the White and Black Masons in Boston following the creation of African Lodge #459 in 1784. It is fair to say that not all Americans favored the enslavement of the Black race; some favored abolition, and a few anti-slavery societies had by now been formed. The spirit of the times, however, discouraged the public association between Whites and Blacks on a social basis. Don Cass reports that in 1791 when the Black grand lodge was organized, White Masons of Boston, members of St. Andrews Lodge, assisted in the installation ceremonies for the new grand officers. Further associations between White and Black Masons, if any, certainly were limited in scope.
During the sixteen year period between 1775 when the first Blacks were initiated into Masonry and 1791 when the first Black Grand Lodge was formed, there were several developments that gave hope that the position of the Black man in America eventually would be improved. The first of these was the rise of the anti-slavery societies in 1775. By 1783 the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts had outlawed slavery, but the anti-slavery societies were not destined to see their aims realized in New York for half a century nor in the South during their lifetimes. During this period also, most states in America had passed laws forbidden the importation of slaves, Virginia in 1778, for example, and Maryland in 1783. By 1787 slavery was prohibited in the territory north of Ohio and the importation of slaves was forbidden in nearly every Southern state. Yet, between the period 1787 and 1790 Negroes were abducted from Africa at a rate of more than 80,000 each year. These Africans were brought into the states as slaves without regard for law.
...the slave owners and slave tenders had their interests secured and written into the Constitution of the United States in the form of the Three-Fifths Provision, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Slave Trade Compromise.
The greatest hope for the slave came out of the abolitionist movement in the newly founded Constitutional Congress following the successful conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783. It was inevitable that slavery would become an issue in this Congress, especially after the Declaration of Independence drafted by the founding fathers had proclaimed:
...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness....
When the issue of slavery was brought up in the Constitutional Congress, John Rutledge, a representative from South Carolina, reminded the delegates that "Religion and humanity had nothing to do with the question, interest alone is the governing principle with nations." It was Rutledge's point of view that eventually swayed the Congress, and the slave owners and slave tenders had their interests secured and written into the Constitution of the United States in the form of the Three-Fifths Provision, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Slave Trade Compromise. The ratification of the Constitution guaranteed the slave states that the institution of slavery would continue lawfully for no fewer than twenty years.
During the period when the question of abolition was debated, White Americans--both abolitionists and slave owners--were faced with a perplexing problem. White Americans, according to Drimmer, "were unable to view Negroes as free Men. Few Americans had an answer of what to do with the Negroes once freed. It was the general American view that the races could not live together, side by side, in peace." This view was embraced by all, including the abolitionists themselves. Thomas Jefferson, a Freemason and one of the more prominent supporters of abolition in the Constitutional Congress advocated that the Negroes, once freed, be resettled on the Western Lands.
Jefferson also supported the popular opinion of the day that the Negro race was inferior to the White race. In his Notes on Virginia, 1784, he wrote:
I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowment of body and of mind.
Jefferson's view was a great deal more liberal than the common view, as he did allow that circumstances may have been a cause of the demoralized, de-humanized condition of the eighteenth- century Negro slave. It is also a credit to the Masonic Order that one of its more prominent American members had viewed the institution of slavery as a moral, rather than as an economic issue.
Thus Black Freemasonry was introduced into America at a period when the Negro slave was considered an item of personal property and the Negro race as inferior and incapable of coexisting in White society. These views were shared by prominent Masons of that day and were undoubtedly endorsed by the Masonic masses. It is improbable that serious consideration was ever given to assimilating the Black Masons of that period into the White Lodges, and there is no historical evidence that any such assimilation was attempted. There is, however, no evidence that the White Masons of that day objected to free Black men becoming Masons, or to Black Masons forming their own lodges separately from the White Lodges. Don Cass notes that at the time the Black Lodge was established in Boston:
There were numerous White Lodges in Boston and New England. African Lodge was openly and publicly established, and it is interesting to note that there is no record of any protest against it either locally or in England. Its legitimacy was not attacked by the Masons of that time nor was any charge of invasion of jurisdiction advanced.
From this beginning, Black Freemasonry has grown and prospered parallel to, but separate from, the White Order.
Following the American Revolution there was hope among the abolitionists that a new attack could be launched against slavery after the 20-year constitutional reprieve had expired, but with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, a cotton economy became possible in the South, and the demand for slaves began to increase in almost every Southern state. Although most states prohibited the importation of slaves, slaves were brought into the nation in ever increasing quantities reaching a peak near the end of the Eighteenth Century and the beginning of the Nineteenth Century .Some historians estimate that as many as 100,000 Africans were brought into America during the years before and after the turn of the century. The newfound economic prosperity in the southern states and the increased demand for slaves effectively ended the hopes that the abolition of slavery in the infant nation would soon become a reality.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the number of abolitionist and the number of anti-slavery societies continued to increase. Black newspapers began to appear and preach the cause of abolition, and Black abolitionist leaders began to emerge where the chief spokesmen had previously been White.
This period saw the concurrent rise of a new racial concept in America, White Supremacy. Phillip Curtin traces the history of the concept as follows:
The feeling of belonging to a superior race was ... satisfying. It grew gradually in importance during the first half of the nineteenth century both in the United States and in Europe. About 1850, a number of scientists carried this racism farther still and tried to prove that Europeans were anatomically very different from other peoples. Detailed studies developed the hypothesis that race was the major determining cause of all historical change.... In the second half of the century, pseudo-scientific racism gained still more strength from the misapplication of the Darwinian theory. By 1900 its acceptance in scientific circles was virtually universal throughout the West.
Slavery was abolished in the Confederate States by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 and in the remainder of .the country by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Despite the legislated freedom and citizenship granted the Negro in America, Americans gave no thought to assimilating the freed Negro population as the Iberian and Portuguese countries had so easily done. The Reconstruction Program that followed the abolition of slavery in America failed to improve the status of the Negro. This "magnificent experiment" found the Negro elevated to positions of high responsibility for which he was inadequately prepared. Further, many Americans, particularly those in the South, wished the experiment to fail as it would seem further to prove the inferiority of the Negro as a race.
It was not only the lower class of Whites that rebelled against the newfound Black freedom; the Whites of stature, with some exceptions, opposed emancipation as they envisioned the crumbling of their financial empires with the loss of the lucrative slave trade and the loss of slave labor. These were joined by the intelligentsia and scientific community who were becoming increasingly convinced that the Negro race had no place in White society.
Under slavery, the Negro had economic value to his owner; after emancipation the Negro was oft times viewed as inherently worthless.
The most memorable display of the American spirit was reflected in the rise and rapid growth of the Ku Klux Klan within months after the Thirteenth Amendment had been passed. The Klan became so atrocious between 1865 and 1869 that one of the founders of the organization denounced it and accused local Klans as often composed of "rash, impudent, and bad men." The Confederate General Nathan Forrest, founder of the organization, ordered the local Klans to disband in 1869, but. this order was ignored. Having lost control, Forrest withdrew from the organization and so did any semblance of restraint in the Klan order. Violence against the Negro in America was rampant and the status of the Negro sank even lower than it had been under slavery. Under slavery, the Negro had economic value to his owner; after emancipation the Negro was oft times viewed as inherently worthless.
By 1870 and 1871 it became necessary for the Congress of the United States to act against what had come to be considered an insurrection in the South, and the "Ku Klux Acts" were passed. These acts provided federal supervision over elections and gave the President power to declare martial law in the Southern states. Excessive lawlessness by the Klan was met with excessive vengeance by law, and anarchy reigned in the South until 1877. In a tacit compromise reached that year in the Congress, the southern Democrats were allowed to rule the South in the name of White supremacy in return for allowing the Republicans to rule the North in the name of big business. This compromise effectively eliminated the need for the Klan and the lawless reduction of Negroes through violence; the southern states could now do so by law.
Negroes were immediately stripped of the right to vote and were systematically reduced to a non-citizen status. As had happened in the Constitutional Congress following the American Revolution, the moral forces in government that had kept racism in check to a degree, again broke down. The Congress ignored the problem and the courts aided the cause of the racists by reinterpreting the intent of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The position of White Freemasons toward Black Freemasons during this era is eloquently expounded in the Pike Principle. Albert Pike, a noted Masonic authority and jurist stated in 1868:
Freemasonry is one faith, one great religion, one great common star around which men of all tongues and languages shall assemble. ...[Nevertheless] I took my obligation to white men, not Negroes. When I have to accept Negroes as brethren or leave Masonry, I shall leave it.
Was Pike's position based on the illegitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry, or did it simply express the mood of his time? He clarified this in 1875:
Prince Hall Lodge was as regular a Lodge as any Lodge created by competent authority. It had a perfect right to establish other lodges and make itself a Mother lodge.
During this period another incident occurred in the world of Masonry. In 1871, the White Grand Lodge of New Jersey constituted Alpha Lodge #116, but impounded the charter a month after it was issued when it was learned that twelve Negroes were among the persons that had petitioned the new lodge for initiation into the Masonic Order. The charter remained impounded for almost a year while alleged irregularities and deceits by the members of Alpha Lodge were investigated and disproved. After the charter of Alpha Lodge was restored and the Black candidates initiated, a sister lodge passed a resolution against initiating Negroes as tending to disturb the harmony of the Craft and as being of no benefit to them. The same lodge filed formal charges in the grand lodge against Alpha Lodge, but the charges were ruled to be out of order. Forty years later, Edwin J. Martin in his capacity as Grand Master of Mississippi severed relations with the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, explaining:
Masonry never contemplated that her privileges should be extended to a race totally morally and intellectually incapacitated to discharge the obligations which they assume or have conferred upon them in a Masonic Lodge. It is no answer that there are exceptions to this general character of the race. We legislate for the race and not for the exceptions. We hold that affiliation with Negroes is contrary to the teachings of Masonry, and is dangerous to the interest of the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons.
When the first generation of Black Americans to be born outside of slavery reached maturity toward the end of the nineteenth century, a slow and steady Black migration from the South to the North and from rural to urban areas was in progress. This migration coincides with the Introduction of the Jim Crow Laws that created separate rail cars and waiting rooms for Blacks in the railway system. Later laws patterned after the Jim Crow Law required the separation of the races in virtually every aspect of American life. An example of these laws and the detail in which they were written can be found in the South Carolina Code of 1915, which prohibited textile factories from permitting laborers of different races from working together in the same room, or using the same entrances, pay windows, exits, doorways, stairways, or windows at the same time, or the same lavatories, toilets, drinking water buckets, pails, cups, dippers or glasses at any time. In the early decades of the twentieth century, laws in similar detail covering virtually every aspect of public and private associations between the races were passed throughout the southern states. Similar racial distinctions were often enforced in states where Jim Crow practices were not codified by law; Jim Crow practices were eventually adopted in the North, more by popular demand than by law.
It was during the first decade of the twentieth century that the scientific community reversed its position on White supremacy by showing that there are no significant differences in the innate abilities or tendencies among the different races, that race and culture are not in any way dependent, one upon the other, and that racial characteristics had nothing to do with the course of history. The acceptance of this idea by a small core of Americans began to reverse the civil inequalities meted to the American Negro. Of particular significance was the position of the Supreme Court of the United States, which has, since the second decade of the twentieth century, consistently ruled against racially discriminatory practices.
The enlightened attitude shown toward the Negro by the scientific and judiciary communities did not appreciably affect the attitudes of the American masses as can be seen by the gigantic second rise of the Ku Klux Klan. This second Klan was organized in 1915 shortly after the release of the American movie, The Birth of a Nation. This movie glorified the Klan and in the words of one southerner, "Made the Klan as honorable as Robert E. Lee." By 1921 the Klan had increased its membership to 100,000 and during the next three years increased it to more than four million, making it one of only two secret societies in America ever to have surpassed in numbers the strength of the Masonic Order. American Freemasons are embarrassed by the extent to which Freemasons participated in the second Klan movement, however, this participation is not surprising when viewed in context with the history of the Order in America and in context with the Pike Principle.
The Negro was only a secondary target of the second Klan, but this was because the Negro had already been reduced to social insignificance except in the slums of the great cities.
The atrocities committed by the second Klan against Negro Americans will not be elaborated upon. Its importance lies in its power. Unlike the rabble-rousers of the first Klan, the second Klan became pillars of society in the 1920's. The Klan grew to dominance in almost every rural area in the country and in many urban areas as well. Klan candidates reached the United States Senate and took over the governorship of several states. In Indiana, David C. Stephenson, Governor of the state and Grand Dragon of the Klan, appointed Klansmen to every office in the state. The Klan strongly influenced the business world by organizing economic boycotts against undesirable shopkeepers and businessmen who failed to support the Klan.
The Negro was only a secondary target of the second Klan, but this was because the Negro had already been reduced to social insignificance except in the slums of the great cities. The new Klan attacked Jews, Catholics, radicals, foreigners, and Protestant Whites who opposed their views.
Toward the end of the twenties the Klan began to disintegrate as a major political force, but its legacy continued and the techniques employed by the Klan for the repression of Negroes, Catholics, Jews, and foreigners of non-Anglo-Saxon descent were employed for several decades. At minimum they succeeded in elevating and securing power for the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) segment of society.
In the 1940's, the role of the Negro in America and in Freemasonry was being reevaluated. A Past Grand Master of the Caucasian Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Melvin M. Johnson, culminated a study of Black Masonry in 1944 and offered the following statement:
Some years ago, supposing that Negro Freemasonry was clandestine or at least irregular, I began the writing of a brief to prove it. In preparation therefor, I searched for and studied all known facts which were pertinent, seeking the best evidence. The result, much to my surprise, was a firm conviction of the genuineness of Prince Hall (Negro) Freemasonry. The facts and law are so clear that, in my opinion, no unbiased searcher for the truth can come to a different conclusion.
The matter was also discussed by the Oregon Grand Master at the 1946 Grand Master's Conference in Washington, which prompted Past Grand Master Johnson to bring the matter before the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts where a committee composed of six Past Grand Masters agreed with his conclusions. The committee was reluctant to carry its findings to its logical conclusion and recommended that:
… in view of the existing social conditions in our country, it is advisable for the official and organized activities of White and Colored Freemasons to proceed in parallel lines, but organically separate and without mutually embarrassing demands or commitments.
The committee, however, did not accurately access social conditions in the country, for they further recommended that, "informal cooperation and mutual helpfulness between the two groups upon appropriate occasions are desirable." They carefully explained that, "The committee does not recommend what is technically known Masonically as 'recognition.' Neither does it recommend intervisitation. Mere acknowledgement of legitimacy implies neither." The Grand Lodge adopted the Committee report in 1947.
In response to this cautious action by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, Grand Lodges across America severed Masonic relations with the Grand Lodge, of Massachusetts en masse. After Massachusetts voted a few years later to rescind their approval of the Committee's report, Masonic relations were reestablished and the question of Negro Masonry in Massachusetts was laid to rest.
The massive participation of Black Americans in World War II, living in segregated barracks but fighting and dying side by side with Whites on the battle field, was so visibly incongruent that the Armed Forces of the United States had desegregated before the end of the War . This action and the glimmer of hope it gave to Blacks across America inspired the third massive resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in 1945 and led to a wave of violence against Black Americans that extended well into the 1950's.
The second half of the twentieth century saw the gradual erosion of the Jim Crow laws and saw continued activity by the United States Supreme Court, now spurred by the NAACP, starting with the desegregation of public schools. Several researchers investigated the question of the legitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry, arriving at the same conclusions as did Past Grand Master Johnson of Massachusetts. One of these was Deputy Grand Master George Draffen of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In a paper of 1976 in the Transactions of the Quatnor Coronati Lodge, AQC 89, he reports:
The detractors of Prince Hall Freemasonry have frequently stated that his initiation by a military lodge was in direct conflict with Regulation XXVII of the Constitution & Laws of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, which regulation forbade the initiation in a military lodge of any person living in a town where there was a town lodge.... This regulation could, of course, only apply to lodges under the Grand Lodge of Ireland--and there never was a 'Town Lodge' in Boston nor, indeed, anywhere else in Massachusetts, under the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Deputy Grand Master Draffen goes on to show that several breaches of this regulation had been recorded by the Grand Lodge of Ireland and that:
There is no ruling [in] the Grand Lodge minute that the masons so made were either clandestine or irregular. No other evidence has been produced to show that Prince Hall's initiation was in any way irregular and it must be presumed that he became a mason in the normal and regular way according to the customary manner of the times.
Deputy Grand Master Draffen goes on to attack issues levied against Prince Hall Masonry regarding territorial jurisdictional infringements.
It has been held by many writers that the issue of this warrant [by the Grand Lodge of England] was, in fact, an infringement of jurisdiction--but they fail to say whose jurisdiction for there were, at the time, two Grand Lodges in Massachusetts. And in any event the British Grand Lodges have never accepted the American doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction. ...[Furthermore] at the time of the issue of the warrant to African Lodge the American doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction had not been promulgated and does not seem to have been arrived at until the 1880s.... It is clear that the doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction was not operating at the time African Lodge's warrant was issued.
Finally, Deputy Grand Master Draffen addressed the argument that African Lodge illegally assumed the power to issue warrants and to function as a Grand Lodge:
...Prince Hall agreed to issue a warrant to the brethren in Philadelphia. In doing so Prince Hall was doing no more and no less than what Lodge Fredericksburg, Virginia, had done in 1757. Lodge Fredericks was self-formed in 1752 and did not get a warrant of its own (from the Grand Lodge of Scotland) until 1758. In 1757 it issued a Dispensation to Lodge Botetourt to meet at Gloucester, Virginia, and that lodge subsequently obtained a warrant from the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) as No.458 in 1773. We have here a lapse of sixteen years between the granting of a Dispensation, by an unwarranted lodge, before the obtaining of a warrant. Lodge Fredericksburg is now No.4 under the Grand Lodge of Virginia and was George Washington's lodge. ...Of these activities of Lodge Fredericksburg the late Hugo Tatsch states: "... The right of Fredericksburg Lodge to issue these charters was recognized by the Craft of that period." If Fredericksburg Lodge possessed, and had exercised, the right to issue charters then that same right cannot be denied to African Lodge No.459.
America today is still divided along racial lines and the White population views Blacks, at best, with suspicion. Black Freemasons in the 1990's continue to practice separately from White Freemasons. Periodically, a White Grand Lodge revives the question put by Massachusetts, but quickly puts it to rest. Whites are no more willing now to assimilate Blacks than they were in 1619.
The millions of fine gentlemen who comprise the international orders of Black and White Freemasonry are among the most respected in their respective societies. They pride themselves on their charitable programs and their upstanding deportment. They prove, however, that the separation of the races is endorsed, practiced, and desired by many of the most respected members of White American society; the assimilation of the Black Order or the free admission of individual Blacks into their order is of no pressing concern while the Pike Principle rules. They cannot see or do not care that the institution they perpetuate stands as a living monument to the racially divided society they have inherited.
Legislated improvements to the Black condition have not and will not change the hearts of a society whose heritage has wrought three centuries of racial intolerance. Events in the 1990's, in which White police officers in the liberal State of California have publicly and savagely beaten blacks for trivial offenses, show the world the private philosophy of White America. White Americans--when not required to do so by law--are now, and always have been, unwilling voluntarily to facilitate the orderly assimilation of Blacks into the mainstream of American society. White Freemasons are no more willing to assimilate Blacks into their lodges than the Klan is to assimilate Blacks into their Klaverns.
To say that American Freemasonry is not racist is ludicrous. Indeed, American Freemasonry demonstrates that moral Americans, without legal restraints, are as racists in their private lives as they were in the days of Jim Crow. The American Order stands as proof that a large body of White Americans who profess themselves to be the most decent of their kind, continue to think and act along racially inspired lines.
Because of racism in America, Black Americans are denied the business and social contacts so necessary for success in the free market. Blacks operating on the fringe of White society do not as easily get the bank loans, business leads, and job referrals to which other whites have such easy access. Acknowledging of the legitimacy of the Black Order is not enough to allow the White Order to rid itself of its racial contamination; recognizing the humanity of Black Americans is not enough to undo the shackles Blacks still carry. As long as Black Masons and Black Americans remain on the fringe of society, they will remain at the mercy of that influential minority of racists who have intimidated and paralyzed the moral consciousness of this Nation.
"Prince Hall Lodge was as regular as any lodge created by competent authority. It had a perfect right to establsih other lodges and make itself a mother lodge>" Albert Pike
POSTSCRIPT: As this paper was going to press in 1992, several grand lodges had already formalized treaties of Masonic recognition with the Prince Hall grand lodge in their state.