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What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join. For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances. For others, it’s about being able to help deserving causes – making a contribution to family and society. But for most, it is an enjoyable hobby.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal, and charitable organizations. It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be highly moral and encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry. The following information is intended to explain Freemasonry as it is practiced under the United Grand Lodge of England, which administers Lodges of Freemasons in England and Wales and in many places overseas.


Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays that are learned by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.


Freemasonry instills in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty, and fairness. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches concern for people, cares for the less fortunate, and helps those in need.


United Grand Lodge of England - What is Freemasonry?

What is Prince Hall Freemasonry?

Prince Hall
(1738 - 1807)

Champion of American Liberty

Advocate of Negro Freedom

Founder of Black Masonry


Prince Hall Freemasonry: A Legacy of Leadership and Brotherhood


Introduction: Prince Hall Freemasonry has evolved into a distinct and venerable institution within the Masonic tradition since its inception during the nascent stages of the American Revolutionary War. This separate lineage, deeply rooted in advocacy and the struggle for civil rights, carries the name of its illustrious founder, Prince Hall, an emblematic figure in American and Masonic history.


Early Struggles and Initiation into Freemasonry: Prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Prince Hall, along with fourteen other free black men, sought admittance into the white Boston St. John's Lodge. Their petition was declined, reflecting the era's pervasive racial barriers [15]. However, undeterred by this rejection, Prince Hall and his associates were initiated into Masonry through Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland on March 6, 1775, marking a seminal moment in the history of African-American Masonry [24]. This act symbolized a profound assertion of equality and fraternity in a period marked by racial division.


Manumission and the Formation of African Lodge No. 1: The year 1770 was pivotal for Prince Hall as he obtained his freedom, as documented in his manumission paper [19]. Subsequent to their initiation, Prince Hall and other free African-American men established African Lodge No. 1, electing Hall as their leader [24]. This lodge emerged as a Masonic entity and a beacon of self-governance and unity among African Americans in a time of profound inequality.


Charter Acquisition and Masonic Legitimacy: In pursuit of formal recognition, African Lodge No. 1 sought a charter from the Premier Grand Lodge of England. On September 29, 1784, the lodge was granted this charter, establishing it as African Lodge No. 459, later known as African Lodge No. 1 [25]. This charter represented a significant milestone, legitimizing the lodge's Masonic practices and cementing its role in the broader Masonic landscape.


Expansion and Independence: The foundational ethos of Prince Hall Freemasonry inspired its expansion beyond Massachusetts. In 1797, Prince Hall successfully established lodges in Philadelphia and Providence, extending the reach of this Masonic tradition [26]. By 1827, in a bold assertion of autonomy, the African Grand Lodge declared its independence from the United Grand Lodge of England, paralleling a similar move by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts 45 years earlier [30]. This independence was crucial in establishing Prince Hall Freemasonry as a separate, predominantly African-American Masonic jurisdiction.


Contemporary Influence and Prince Hall's Enduring Legacy: Today, Prince Hall Freemasonry extends across various regions, including the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Liberia, and Brazil [31]. Prince Hall, revered as the "father of African-American Freemasonry," left an indelible mark on Masonry and the fabric of American civic life [32]. His legacy is characterized by enduring principles of brotherhood, equality, and self-determination, principles that continue to inspire men seeking affiliation with Prince Hall Freemasonry.


Understanding this rich history is fundamental for men aspiring to join the ranks of Prince Hall Affiliated Frees and Accepted Masons. Prince Hall Freemasonry stands as a testament to resilience in the face of adversity, the pursuit of justice, and the unyielding spirit of brotherhood. It is a tradition that honors its past and actively shapes a more inclusive and equitable future.

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