Black Freemasonry (Review)

black-freemasonryBlack Freemasonry: From Prince Hall to the Giants of Jazz
Cécile Révauger
Inner Traditions, 2016, $29.95

Already the author of several books on Freemasonry in French, University of Bordeaux professor Cécile Révauger turns her attention to the history of Black Freemasonry in the United States. As early as the eighteenth century, the Masonic lodges of Europe were open to both white and black men. The story was different in the United States, however, where African Americans were barred from admittance. This gave rise to a separate lodge system for black Masons (originally operating under a charter from the Grand Lodge of England). Révauger begins her history with the origination of “African Lodges” in Boston and Philadelphia during the last quarter of the 18th century. By the early 1800s, this network of lodges had changed its name to Prince Hall Lodges taking the name of the legendary founder of the first black lodge in Boston. The author had access to diverse archives maintained by the Grand Lodges, Masonic libraries, and museums. The richness of the material shows in the detailed history provided. She provides insights into the founding of the first lodge and the historical personage that was Prince Hall through a detailed examination of his letters. Black Freemasonry provides a fascinating historical account of the development of Prince Hall Masonry, its role in the Civil War, the structure it provided during reconstruction, and its influence on the early Civil Rights Movement.

Meticulously research, Révauger’s Black Freemasonry provides a fascinating historical ride from the development of Prince Hall Masonry during the revolutionary period through the rise of Jazz to the battles of the Civil Rights Movement.