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Bro. Jeffrey Ballou


The Lives and Legacies of Prince Hall, the Founders of Social Lodge No. 1, PHA, D.C. through the vision of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
by Bro.Jeffrey P. Ballou, 33°
Social Lodge #1
M.W. Prince Hall G.L. of District of Columbia.

Remarks as delivered to Potomac Lodge No. 5, FAAM, D.C. on the Rev, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday, January 19,2004. 


Within the beloved brotherhood of Freemasonry we are taught that we should invoke the aid of deity before any great or important undertaking.  With that I would ask the WM to request a prayer from the chaplain.

Thank you Brother Chaplain for your warm and thoughtful prayer.


Officially this talk comes as a result of the invitation from Worshipful Master Young to Social Lodge No. 1.

Worshipful Master Young wanted to have a discussion of Prince Hall Freemasonry on the Reverend Dr. King's federal holiday.

The fact that he wanted me to do it is humbling. I also appreciate that my Worshipful Master has given me the opportunity to accept.

Now I don't fancy myself much of a scholar. Yet I like many people in this room care a great deal about Freemasonry, the principles it espouses, how we relate to each other as brothers and how the fraternity relates to the community in which we live.


So the principal challenge given to me had been what to write about Masonically-speaking.  Moreover, how do you tie such a challenge to the life of a non-Freemason? The formula that I wound up with, in which we will experiment. is to see if there was something in the late Rev, Dr. King's writings that tie thematically into what Freemasonry often inspires; a challenge to the individual and collective conscience. I also wanted to write about something that has not been written about before to deal with the challenge theme.


The discovery process yielded a syntheses of selected Dr.King's writings, key historical events and brief glimpses at the lives of both Prince Hall and selected founders of Social Lodge No. 1.


Since we are celebrating the federal holiday of the late Rev. Dr. King today, allow me to draw upon his speeches 'Where Do We Go From Here?' and 'I see the Promised Land.'


'Here' and 'Promised Land' were written in 1967 and 68 respectively.  Now you notice that I did not draw heavily upon the 'I have a dream speech.'  I will not go into a lengthy dissertation, but suffice it to say that the 'Dream' speech has been analyzed into the ground.  The 'Here' and 'Land' speeches mark Dr. King at the height of conscience and controversy, not just against racists, but the White House, the press and so-called mainstream African-American leaders. 


By the time of 'Here' and 'Land,' King had denounced Vietnam on several occasions, called for full employment, a guaranteed national income and a radical societal reconstruction combining capitalism and communism (he called both corrupt).  April 4th, 1968, a day after Dr. King delivered the 'Land' sermon it was painfully clear that the country was not ready for these philosophical challenges to its conscience.  If these themes sound familiar, they're coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire quite a bit.  Like before, the sitting President has told those opposing the war that they're on the wrong side of history--just like former President Lyndon Baines Johnson.


Its the challenge to conscience which is the road that we go down this evening through the eyes of history.  Perhaps we can see if we as a society and specifically Freemasonry as a fraternity has learned anything from what, in this case, some of the founders of Social Lodge No. 1 experienced not simply in their Masonic lives which will be perfunctorally reviewed, but their actual private lives. As we take the long view of history and the brief view of their lives, I believe that you'll discover that, unlike the fictitious movie that starred Sean Connery, Social's founders are the true league of extraordinary gentlemen. They are in a long tradition of people who called consciences on the carpet and paid very dearly for it.


Allow me first to set up the framework of history before and at the time of Social Lodge's beginnings.

Slavery at the time, was one of the great issues of the day.  What began as indentured servitude for Europeans who couldn't afford to pay for passage on the ships settling the new world became an enterprise of greed.  The combination of inter and intra-national war within Africa where slaves were often a prize and an unholy alliance with the Portuguese and others who looked for 'cheap labor' in the colonies quickly became a runaway train that overran much of the continent. The practice formally emerged in the colonies in 1619 at Jamestown Virginia as the horror show that became the holocaust of the day.


As slavery in the colonies grew, there were free black men at the time either born, escaped or released.

Colonists and some of the free black men as the colonies sought independence were drawn to organizations that espoused the best in humankind.  Freemasonry, whose modern(European) incarnation came about in 1646 according to several sources, was one of those brotherhoods.  Some of the nation's founding fathers would as we know join the fraternity--notably for the purposes of tonight's address MWBro. George Washington whose gavel is in the custody of Potomac 5.


Among those free black men attracted to Freemasonry was a free black man named Prince Hall.  There are many theories of Prince Hall's life and birth.  When you examine works by Brothers Charles Wesley and Joseph Walkes, the cold truth is that Prince Hall's birth circumstances are not known nor are aspects of his early life.  What we definitely know is that he sought to join the fraternity.  He was rebuffed until Hall and fourteen other free Black men were initiated into Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution, attached to the 38th Regiment of Foot, British Army Garrisoned at Castle William Island (now Fort Independence) Boston Harbor on March 6th, 1775. The Master of the Lodge was Sergeant John Batt.


Hall seized the moment and quickly sought certification and growth of what would forever be known as African Lodge No. 459.  He got it from the Grand Lodge of England, took his bonafide charter and quickly emerged as an abolitionist and curiously enough an advocate for repatration of Africans in a speech he gave called the Boston Plan in 1787.  Hall's thinking had been in line with some white philanthropists who would form the American Colonization Society(ACS) devoted to African repatriation.  The society's efforts would lead to the creation of Liberia.


Those who did not like Hall for defying the opponents of blacks in Freemasonry eventually tried to burned down the African Grand Lodge building but not before one of Hall's successors ran into the burning building and saved the charter from destruction.


There were those in the fraternity, notably James Forten, Richard Allen and Absolom Jones in Philadelphia who formed the African Methodist Church(A.M.E.) after being denied full rights in the white-run Methodist church who railed against the ACS.  They weren't the only ones.  A couple of hundred miles south in a sleepy midatlantic city called Washington, D.C. that, in 1800 would become the nation's capital, there was a man named John W. Prout who sided with Forten and Jones whom we will talk about momentarily.


These brothers would build a parallel alliance between the A.M.E. Church and black Freemasons.  They would assist in the underground railroad, a part of the abolition movement that would help slaves escape to freedom. Brother George Washington once decried the railroad when one of his slaves escaped via its kind offices.


To speak of Washington, not the man but of the place in a book titled,"Washington: Village and Capital," in a chapter entitled 'Disillusionment and Readjustments,' spoke to the ACS' desired to encourage general emancipation in D.C. because 'wholesale emancipation might endanger the 'tranquility' of the south.  D.C. responded in kind having placed restrictions such as heavy fines for subjectively 'disturbing the peace', strict curfews and even a $500.00 bond that had to be bought by white families and held by every black family as a 'good behavior' guarantee.


In fact, Congress instructed the commissioner of public buildings to bar blacks from the U.S. Capitol except on business(which meant menial labor).  African-Americans still emigrated to D.C. in spite of these conditions and the ACS' African resettlement advocacy. This commissioner was none other than Massachusettes native Charles Bulfinch.  Bulfinch, a former Architect of the Capitol who built the Capitol's central section(including the original dome and rotunda).  Bulfinch is more commonly known as the namesake of Boston's Bulfinch Pub the location for the TV show Cheers.


Opportunities for societal advancement were limited.  One avenue of advancement allowed to a small extent had been education.  Schools had been erected by free African-Americans along with well-meaning if not condescending intent, white philanthropists and religious institutions who often helped fund such institutions.


The second such institution of advancement had been religion.  Henry Foxhall among other philanthropists helped Afircan-Americans establish methodism in D.C.  at first subject to the parent church later declaring its independence erecting churches on such places as South Capitol Street. 


Now to refocus on the life of Bro. John Prout who, raised in Philadelphia's Union Lodge (Prince Hall), January 4th, 1816, prior to Social's founding, both out of his own pocket, and again with the help of white philathropists, took over the running of a school for black children on 14th and H, N.W.  Before Brother Prout's takeover, it had been known as the Resolute Beneficial Society's school, now the site of the New York Presbyterian Church. Who succeeded Prout but John F. Cook, another Prince Hall Mason.  Bro. Cook, leading what was built by both as one of the largest schools for African-American children, had to close the school and flee for his life in 1835 during a massive white mob action in D.C that began in the fall of 1834.  Brother Cook returned in 1836, reopened the school and became D.C.'s first black presbyterian minister in 1843.


Prout had been among those 'Philadelphia blacks' that rejected ACS thought at an AME gathering he presided over in 1831 arguing for free blacks to assert their 'intent to stay in the U.S. and specifically in Washington, D.C. saying, "The soil that gave us birth is our true and veritable home."

Prout besides all of the aforementioned, called 27 other men to his Washington home on November 22nd, 1822, most of whom had already been raised as Freemasons to organize what would become Social Lodge No. 1.  He would be deputized by the African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania as its first Worshipful Master.  He served as Master for 12 years(1825-37).


Another Social leader in both education and business was Brother William Costin.  Brother Costin had been a trusted and reputable messenger at the Bank of Washington one former building of which Stands on 14th street between F and G northwest in between what is now the Red Sage restaurant and the former 14th and G Hahn's shoe store.

Costin, like Prout had a school for African-American children. But in Costin's case started it himself and let his daughter Louisa Parke run it.

Again to cite "Washington, Village and Capitol," and "City of Magnificent Intentions,"they say that Costin had been a member of a distinguished Virginia family.  Costin's mother was the granddaughter of a Cherokee Indian Chief and the child of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington.  Custis Washington being kin to Bro. George Washington .


Brother Costin, because of his Indian heritage, was a freeman by Virginia Law and bought his wife's freedom.  He was also called a 'race man,' known to be provocative and passionate about equality for African-Americans.  Costin moreover passed his racial passion along to his daughter.  According to the "Freedman's Book," Costin also adopted four orphan children and upon his death, the Bank of Washington's Board of directors passed a resolution of appreciation for his Service.  He reportedly had a huge funeral procession in 1842. Former President John Quincy Adams remarked on The floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about Costin's death, "The late William Costin though he was not white was as much respected as any man in the District and the large concourse of citizens that attended his remains to the grave—as well white as black—was an evidence of the manner in which he was estimated by the citizens of Washington.  Now, why should such a man that be excluded from the elective franchise, when you admit the vilest individuals of the white Race to exercise it?' Bro. Costin served as Social Lodge's fourth Master for two terms(1840-42).


To continue our biographical sketches, page 205 of,'The History of the Negro Race in America,' cites Brother William Wormley as another free African-American educator who faced dangerous circumstances.  Brother Wormley built at Vermont and I, N.W,a school house for his sister Mary.  A restaurant owned by his brother later joined it on the property.  He even put his sister through school at the 'Colored Female Seminary' in Philadelphia.  He got wealthy owning a one of the 'largest and best' livery stables in the city.   Wormley also backed the 'Liberator,' newspaper for D.C.


Multiple tragedies unfortunately befell Brother Wormley.  Just two years after opening the school, his sister became ill and died.  The fall of 1834 a famed white mob called 'the snow Mob' sacked and then partially burned down the school house.  Wormley along with a friend of his William Thomas Lee had to flee D.C. for a few days.  They returned but were immediately, repeatedly and brutally assaulted.  Wormley Watched his tattered business fall apart.  Wormley became depressed and died with barely a roof over his head and penniless.  Through it all Wormley managed to serve as Social's fifth master(1843).


Now when you combine the circumstances of just Prout, Costin and Wormley alone, one might wonder what they had to put up with.  Funny you might think that.  Barely a year after Social Lodge was chartered, a furor arose over the alleged murder of William Morgan, who was believed to have revealed Masonic "secrets," and the subsequent investigative stonewalling by New York politicos ensured anti-Masonic hysteria leading to the birth of the Anti-Masonic party. Ironically  the controversy had the reverse effect upon Masonry, the craft tripled in membership to nearly 200,000 brothers leading up to the Civil War according to Formisano's book on anti-masonry.


Why is Anti-Masonry, Slavery, the War of 1812 and every event at the turn of the 19th Century significant?  The men of Social, free black men, managed to face these obstacles organize and promulgate a lodge and eventually a jurisdiction against all odds.


Social brethern met on the banks of the Potomac River, in the barn loft of Past Grand Master Benjamin B. French, in a small room on Clark's Row between G and H on 13th Streets, N.W.  They put up with being constantly hauled before magistrates, beat up and risked at all times during slavery being captured and placed into that institution.


Through civil war, reconstruction, and the many years that followed gave rise to the growth and splintering of the fraternity not just Prince Hall Freemasonry and George Washington or Henry Price if you're from Massachusettes styled-Freemasonry, but a number of groups without the legitimate lineage porfolio(mainly expelled Freemasons), or irregular Freemasons who for a variety of reasons sprang up all over the planet and called themselves Masons.


The growth has caused a complex dilemma that haunts the craft as a whole to this very day.  The craft is faced with the question of whether the weight and legacy of history should maintain a separate but equal existence in the craft.  Regular Freemasonry (meaning grand lodges aligned with the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, the United Grand Lodge of England and the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters) have partially addressed the question by doing what nation's do when they want to see if a working relationship is possible and establish diplomatic relations, or recognition. But to establish diplomatic relations, all sides must adhere to the ultimate checklist of what the fraternity stands for, or, regularity.  Recognition has occurred in a 30-odd states and the District of Columbia.


However the question of how to address either establishing relationships with everybody or absorbing (read healing) so-called irregular Freemasons is a very hard task to say the least.

People have assumed tenure, title and as far as those of us in the regular community believe, an inaccurate intrepretation of history and the power of lineage.


Why is discussing the issue of inter and intraracial reconciliation in the fraternity important and what relevance does it have to the challenge to conscience raised by Dr. King?


Well Prince Hall and Social's founders stood on principle to establish their branch of regular Freemasonry and went through hell doing it.  Through it all they stressed the need for unity, dignity and societal progress.


Furthermore, to work towards the beloved community with moral authority and racial reconciliation that Dr. King often spoke to we (the fraternity) are faced with the public perception, regardless of how many dollars have been spent in charitable efforts that we have rogue elements and more often than not lack a united front on issues that the fraternity deems appropriate to address.


The irregular examples of Dr. York and the nuwapian cult in Atlanta with a child molestation trial  and the so-called irregular 'Grand Lodges of the Confederate States' led by a former Grand Lodge of Alabama F&AM Past Grand Masater calling all PHA Freemasons clandestine should alone put us on notice that there are those who hijack our beloved square and compasses and pervert them for evil purposes.  Some of these groups are not malicious but got off on the wrong historical foot (as I discovered with family members in the nice but irregular category). We're charged to look past the fact that many of our neighbors and in some cases friends and even family are parts of these ill-started groups, and struggle to create a focused, mature Masonic family devoid of illegitimacy. 


That said, I don't claim to have the answers on how to achieve at least getting down to just two camps (racially-speaking).  But there are lots of people who rely on Freemasonry's benevolence who cannot afford the luxury of intramural squabbles.


Therefore, we must be very careful how we treat one another for when your average joe or jane acts not too many people notice.  When Freemasons act, everybody notices.


So, as King put it, "We've got to stay together.  We've got to stay together and maintain unity...Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness."  We also must be mindful in our zeal to maintain decency and order that we don't lose sight of those whom we serve.


Sometimes we in Freemasonry might have to examine our laws and as King said in of all places his interview with Playboy that," a man-made code that is inharmonious with the moral law is an unjust law. And and unjust law, as St. Augustine said, is no law at all..and must be defied until it is legally null and void as well."  For, everything Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' he said.  What would have happened if we had seen the horror of the holocaust earlier and done something? This is not to say we as brothers must me anarchists, but to stay focused on what is truly important, self-improvement and service.  Any misuse of lawful processes or hijacking of our fraternity must be rebuffed.  We cannot be afraid to be troublemakers like Hall, Prout, Washington and King.


We must always keep in mind that fighting homelessness, inadequate education, unaffordable housing, racial, gender and ethnic strife no matter how subtle are inheritently part of the legacies left to us by the Washingtons, Halls, Prouts, Wormleys and Costins.  They all charged the conscience of the nation to correct such ills.  We as Freemasons must not drop the torch that has been passed to us and make sure that the check that society has written to the craft is not returned insufficient funds.






Washington: Village and Capital, 1800-1878: Constance McLaughlin Green(1962)


City of Magnificent Intentions(1983)


The Freedmen's Book, L. Maria Child(1866)


Negro Stars in All Ages of the World, W.H. Quick, Esq(1890)


The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, Etc.: Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts

for Freedom, As Related by Themselves and Others, Or Witnessed by the Author:  Together

with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders and Most Liberal Aiders and-Advisers of the Railroad, William Still-Philadelphia Branch of the Underground Railroad(1872)


History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880 Negroes As Slaves As Soldiers

And As Citizens Together with A Preliminary Consideration of the Unity of the Human

Family, A Historical Sketch of Africa, and an account of the Negro Governments of

Sierra Leone and Liberia, George Williams-First Black Member of the Ohio Legislature(1883).


The Encyclopaedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop R.R. Wright(1947)


Black Biographical Dictionaries 1790-1950(1987)


The Twentieth Century Union League Directory, Historical, Biographical and Statistical Study of Colored Washington at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century adn After a Generation

of Freedom, The Union League, Andrew Hilyer(1901)


William Muraskin, Middle Class in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry

in America(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975)


Ronald P. Formisano,"AntiMasonry and Masonry: The Genesis of Protest, 1826-1827," American Quarterly, 1977, 29(2): 139-165


The Quartro Centennial and Sesquincentennial Yearbooks of Social Lodge No. 1, F&A.M., PHA, D.C., 1950 and 1994: Grafton Daniels(1950 Editor), Marco Kittrell(1994 Editor)


Black Square and Compass: Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., 1979









...we, or our ancestors have been taken from our dear connections, and brought from Africa and put into a state of slavery in this country; from which unhappy situation we have been lately in some measure delivered by the new constitution which has been adopted by this state, or by a free act of our former masters. But we yet to find ourselves, in many respects, in very disagreeable and disadvantageous circumstances; most of which must attend us, so long as we and out children live in America.


This, and other considerations, which we need not here particularly mention, induce us earnestly to desire to return to Africa, our native country, which warm climate is much more natural and agreeable to us; and, for which the god of nature has formed us; and, where we shall live among our equals, and be more comfortable and happy, that we can be in our present situation; and, at the same time, may have the prospect of usefulness to our brethren there.


This leads us humbly to propose the following plan to the consideration of this horourable Court. The soil of the native country is good, and produces the necessities of life in great abundance. There are large tracts of uncultivated lands, which, if proper application were made for them, it is presumed, might be obtained, and would be freely given for those to settle upon, who shall be disposed to return to them. When this shall be effected by a number of Blacks, sent there for this purpose, who shall be thought most capable of making such an application, , and transacting business; then they who are disposed to go and settle there shall form themselves into a civil society, united by a political constitution, in which they shall agree. And those who are disposed, and shall be thought qualified, shall unite, and be formed into a religious society, or Christian church; and have one or more blacks ordained as their pastor or Bishops: And being formed, shall remove to Africa, and settle on said lands.


These must be furnished with necessary provisions for the voyage; and with farming utensils necessary to cultivate the land; and with the materials which cannot at present be obtained there, and which will be needed to build houses and mills.


The execution of this plan will, we hope, be the means of enlightening and civilizing those nations, who are now sunk in ignorance and barbarity; and may give opportunity to those who shall be disposed, and engaged to promote the salvation of their heathen brethren, to spread the knowledge of Christianity among them, and persuade them to embrace it. And schools may be formed to instruct their youth and children, and Christian knowledge be spread through many nations who now are in gross darkness; and Christian nations churches be formed, and the only true God and Savior be worshipped and honoured through that vast extent of country, where are now the habitations of cruelty under the reign of the prince of darkness.


This may also lay a happy foundation for a friendly and lasting connection between that country and the united States of America, by a mutual intercourse and profitable commerce which ,ay much more than overbalance all the expense which is now necessary in order to carry this plan into effect.


This leads us to observe, that we are poor and utterly unable to prosecute this scheme or to return to Africa, without assistance. Money is wanted to ewenable those who shall be appointed, to go to Africa, and procure lands to settle upon; and to obtain a passage for us and our families; and to furnish us with the necessary provisions and the utensils and articles that have been mentioned.


We therefore humbly and earnestly apply to this honorable Court, hoping and praying that in your wisdom and goodness, you concert and prosecute the best method to relieve and assist us either by granting a brief for a collection in all the congregations in this state, or in any other way, which shall to your wisdom appear most expedient.


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