When and how did Prince Hall Become a Mason?
An excerpt from A Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book by Joseph A. Walkes Jr.
This is not definitely known as documentation showing dates have not been found. Tradition has it that he was initiated March 6, 1775. The famed historian, Dr. Jeremy Belknap, wrote "Having once and again mentioned this person (Prince Hall), I must inform you that he is grand master of a Lodge of free masons, composed wholly of blacks, and distinguished by the name of the 'African Lodge'. It was begun in 1775, while this town was garrisoned by British troops; some of whom held a lodge, and initiated a number of negroes. After the peace, they sent to England, and procured a charter under the authority of the Duke of Cumberland, and signed by the late Earl of Effingham."14 Harry E. Davis, in his history of Prince Hall Freemasonry, wrote that Hall had been initiated in Lodge No. 441 which was a military lodge working under the Grand Lodge of Ireland and attached to one of the regiments in the Army of General Gage, and that the Master was a "Brother J. B. Batt." 15
It is difficult to ascertain the validity of this. The minutes of African Lodge which have survived raise as many questions as they answer. Prince Hall Freemasonry accepts that date and counts its beginning from that time. Much confusion exists concerning that period. Blacks were formerly uneducated, being restricted by law from acquiring an education, with "Black codes" legally restricting more than two or three Blacks from assembling or holding meetings. To put the entire period in proper perspective one would need to understand the racial conditions of the time. "16 One can not judge the events of the period in the same context as one judges the early beginning of the Caucasian Colonist. While present, Blacks lived in a different "time frame" in Colonial America than their Caucasian counterparts. This concept requires a rethinking for all those who would judge Prince Hall Freemasonry.
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