Hall, Prince

views updated Jun 11 2018

Prince Hall

Born 1735 (Unknown)

Died December 4, 1807 (Boston, Massachusetts)

Black social activist

Prince Hall founded the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of Boston toward the end of the eighteenth century. The charter for the organization was issued by the Grand Lodge of England after the American Revolution (1775–83). More commonly known as African Lodge #459, it was the world's first black Masonic lodge, and Hall was its first grand master (leader). The group was a vital part of a movement to promote political and economic improvements for free blacks in America. Its organization was a model for all future black social institutions that were established to provide economic and educational assistance to their members. With Boston as the headquarters of African Masonry, Hall also chartered lodges in Philadelphia, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut.

"Patience, I say; for were we not possessed of a great measure of it, we could not bear up ... we may be said to carry our lives in our hands, and the arrows of death are flying about our heads."

Hall was one of the most prominent and influential members of Boston's black community. He used his position as grand master of the lodge to speak out for abolition (prohibition of slavery) and basic civil rights (such as freedom of speech and religious freedom) for African Americans. Hall drafted numerous petitions to the Massachusetts General Court, the state's legislative body, on behalf of blacks. He campaigned for racial equality in education and promoted the colonization of Africa by free blacks. Soon after Hall's death, several lodges met in a general assembly and organized African Grand Lodge#1. The name was changed to Prince Hall Grand Lodge in 1847 to honor their founding father and first grand master. By the twenty-first century, thousands of lodges and dozens of grand lodges could trace their existence back to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

A free man

Little is known about the early years of Prince Hall of Boston. Despite an extensive search by black Masonic historians and others, Hall's place of birth and his family heritage remain a mystery. His 1807 death certificate states his age as seventy-two years, and from that it is assumed his birth year was 1735. The first documented information that can be verified states that Prince Hall was a slave of William Hall during the late 1740s. William Hall was a leather craftsman in Boston, and it is known that Prince Hall worked in that trade as well. In 1756, Hall fathered a son named Primus; the child's mother, Delia, worked as a servant in another household.

In 1762, Hall joined the Congregational Church on School Street. The following year, he married Sarah Ritchie, also a slave. On April 9, 1770, Hall received his freedom after serving over twenty years. His certificate of freedom stated that he was "no longer Reckoned a slave, but [had] been always accounted as a free man." Sarah died that same year, and Hall married Flora Gibbs of Gloucester, Massachusetts. They had one son, Prince Africanus, who was baptized in Boston on November 14, 1784. Later in his life, on June 28, 1798, Hall married once again; his third wife's name was Sylvia (or Zilpha) Ward.

Prince Hall had been active in denouncing slavery for many years. Shortly after gaining his own freedom, he began sending petitions of protest to the Massachusetts legislature. In 1773, Hall and four other black men requested that a law be passed stating that for one day a week, blacks could work for themselves in order to buy their own freedom. A petition signed in 1777 by Hall and seven other African Americans asked the General Court to abolish slavery because it was not consistent with the Patriot cause. (Patriots were American colonists who supported the rebel cause to gain independence from British rule.) The matter was referred to the Congress of the Confederation, which took no action. Slavery was not abolished in Massachusetts until 1783, after the American Revolution had ended.

Hall joins the Masons

In 1775, an army lodge of Freemasons (a fraternal organization of community leaders) attached to a British regiment in Boston invited Hall and fourteen other free blacks to become members. The men were initiated (officially brought into the group) on March 6, just weeks before open conflict began in the American Revolution. American colonists viewed this invitation with suspicion; they believed that the British were planning to arm the blacks and have them fight in exchange for liberation after the war. Hall saw membership in the Masons as an opportunity for blacks to seek social and economic advancement.

With the outbreak of war, the British regiment, along with its lodge, left Boston. Hall and his associates had no charter, but they received a permit that allowed them to continue meeting. African Lodge #1 was officially organized on July 3, 1776, with Hall as its leader. With limited privileges, the African Lodge could participate in Masonic rituals and ceremonies, and they could march in procession on Saint John's Day. However, they could not promote members to new positions within the organization, initiate new members, or participate in other ceremonial activities. They could bury their dead in the elaborate ceremonial manner of the Masons.

There are at least six black men with the name of Prince Hall listed in Massachusetts military records from the American Revolution period. Whether Prince Hall the Mason fought as a soldier is uncertain, but his service as a craftsman is documented. On April 24, 1777, Hall submitted a bill for five leather drumheads to a Colonel Crafts of the Boston Regiment of Artillery. Hall's son Primus served in the Revolution and in the War of 1812 (1812–15).

Throughout the 1780s, Hall operated a leather workshop called the Golden Fleece while he carried out his duties with the Masons. Meanwhile, he became a spokesman for all black Bostonians because of his political activity. When the revolt called Shays's Rebellion broke out in 1786, Hall offered to raise a militia (an organized military force, made up of citizens, that serves in times of emergency) of seven hundred black soldiers to help put down the rebellion in western Massachusetts. Farmers were rebelling against the high taxes being imposed by the state government. Governor James Bowdoin (1726–1790) declined the offer, indicating there was no need for their services.

African Lodge #459

The American order (group) of Masons refused to charter the blacks. Therefore, in 1784, Hall wrote to the Grand Lodge of London, England, requesting a permanent charter for the African Lodge. After a series of appeals and numerous delays, the charter was granted from England. In the spring of 1787, African Lodge #1, renumbered 459, received its charter with full recognition as a regular Masonic lodge. Hall was designated as the lodge's grand master. African Lodge #459 developed under his leadership and, with the sanction of the English body, became the African Grand Lodge with authority over other African American Masonic lodges. As the first grand master of black Masons, Hall could now issue charters to African lodges in other places, and the order grew. In later years, Hall would be appointed provincial grand master (1791) with responsibility over a wider region, leading to the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge. Then seven years later, Hall would organize an African Masonic lodge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Absalom Jones (1746–1818; see entry in volume 1) as its worshipful master and Richard Allen (1760–1816; see entry in volume 1) its treasurer.

Boston's worshipful master

Hall continued to use his position and influence in the Boston community to work for the rights of blacks. Finding little support from the state government, Hall and seventy-two others signed a petition in 1787 asking the legislature to finance black immigration to Africa. This public statement in favor of colonization in Africa predated the American Colonization Society of 1816 by over a quarter of a century. The American Colonization Society was the initiative of a black American sea captain named Paul Cuffee (1759–c. 1818; see box). Hall's petition was accepted by the House but was then blocked in a legislative committee and never readdressed.

Early in 1788, Hall drafted a petition to the Massachusetts legislature in response to the kidnapping of three free blacks from Boston by slave traders. One of the men who had been abducted was a Mason named Luck. Twenty-two members of African Lodge #459 signed the petition and rallied to protest the kidnapping. Pressure from the Quakers (a religious group opposed to slavery) and a group of Boston clergymen who also wanted to put an end to the slave trade proved sufficient to influence the General Court. In March 1788, the Massachusetts legislature banned slave trade with Africa and provided governmental relief to the victims' families. Diplomatic action by

Captain Paul Cuffee

Paul Cuffee was born a free black in 1759 on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. He was a skilled seaman who owned a very successful shipping business. A Quaker by faith, he devoted his fortune to increasing opportunities for blacks in the late eighteenth century. Cuffee became discouraged at the lack of progress being made in America and decided that the immigration of free blacks to Africa was a better option. By 1810, Cuffee completed his plans to sail to Africa with a cargo and to make observations on the desirability of establishing a colony there.

In 1811, Cuffee launched his ship, the Traveller, and set out for Sierra Leone, a British colony on the west coast of Africa. The journey took nearly two months. He spent several months completing his investigation before continuing on to England. Cuffee acquired a trading license with the British government and was promised trading privileges in the colony in exchange for his efforts in relocating American blacks. He returned to the United States to promote his plan among free blacks, but the War of 1812 broke out, and the U.S. government restricted all trade with England.

When the war was over, Cuffee once again boarded the Traveller and headed for Africa. The ship departed in December 1815, filled with thirty-eight free black immigrants and a cargo of goods that pioneers could use. Cuffee paid for the voyage expenses of all but eight of the passengers. When they arrived in Sierra Leone, Cuffee found his trading privileges had been taken away, but the new immigrants were welcomed and given land grants.

Cuffee returned to the United States in June 1816 and found that there was renewed interest in returning free blacks to their native lands. He had gathered valuable information on his voyages to Sierra Leone, and the organizers of the future American Colonization Society were eager to acquire that information. Cuffee corresponded with these leaders and gave freely of his knowledge of Africa. He would not live to see the passage of the Slave Trade Act in March 1819; he died in September 1817. This legislation strengthened penalties for Americans still participating in the international slave trade. It also authorized President James Monroe (1758–1831; served 1817–25; see entry in volume 2) to return all captured Africans to Africa.

Governor John Hancock (1737–1793) and the French consul in Boston resulted in the release of the three captured black freemen from the French island of St. Barthélemy in the West Indies. The African Lodge organized a celebration for the men's return to Boston at the end of July 1788.

A small victory had been won in the war against slavery, but the battle for equal rights was far from over. One day after Massachusetts closed its ports to African slave ships, the General Court ruled that blacks who fled slavery would not be allowed to remain in Massachusetts. All African or black residents of Massachusetts had to be able to produce a certificate of citizenship from the secretary of state of their last place of residence. If they were unable to show such a certificate but still remained in Massachusetts after receiving a legal warning to leave, they could be jailed and whipped. Any protest against the inhumane law at the time aroused further suspicions of the blacks' intent in the new nation.

In search of equality

In 1798, Hall organized the African Free School. The school met in Primus Hall's home and was financed by small tuition fees to students. This came about after Hall had focused much effort on fighting discrimination against blacks in education. He had petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to provide separate black public schools in Boston. Hall based his argument on the fact that he and other free blacks paid their taxes, just as many white Americans did. Since the taxes paid for school funding, Hall argued, black children should have the same access to schools as white children did. His petition to the state was denied, leading to the African Free School. Less than a decade later, in 1806, the school hired a white teacher for the first time and moved to the basement of the newly erected African Meeting House in Boston.

As the eighteenth century drew to a close, American cities experienced some mob violence that stemmed from ethnic, racial, and religious differences. Boston experienced its share of this violence, and Hall spoke out against racially motivated attacks on blacks. He accused the rioters of cowardice. His last published speech to the African Lodge, in June 1797, called for patience in the face of such adversity.

On December 4, 1807, Prince Hall died in Boston. He was buried at the 59th Street Mathews Cemetery. Hall died with few assets; his widow, Sylvia Ward Hall, estimated his estate's value at less than $50. However, he left a valuable legacy: a lifetime of service that kept the fight for blacks' rights moving forward. On January 1, 1808, less than a month after Hall's death, the bill ending American participation in the Atlantic slave trade went into effect.

For More Information


Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma N. Kaplan. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Rev. ed. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.

Nell, William C. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution. Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1968.

Wesley, Charles H. In Freedom's Footsteps: From the African Background to the Civil War. New York: Publishers Co., 1968.

Web Sites

"Boston African-American National Historic Site: Prince Hall (c. 1735–1807)." The National Park Service.http://www.nps.gov/boaf/princehall.htm (accessed on August 13, 2005).

"A Brief History of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Massachusetts." MostWorshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.http://www.princehall.org/history.html (accessed on August 13, 2005).

Hall, Prince

views updated Jun 27 2018

Prince Hall

The founder of the first black lodge within the Masonic Order, Prince Hall (c.1735–1807) was a leading black citizen of Boston during the Revolutionary War era. A skilled orator, he pointed to the inherent hypocrisy of a war being waged in the name of freedom by a people that practiced the enslavement of others.

Hall supported the Revolution and may well have fought against the British. He emerged as a leader of Boston's African-American community in the years after the war. Using his position as Worshipful Master or Grandmaster of Boston's African Lodge No. 459 as a bully pulpit, he organized efforts to improve education for black Bostonians, to begin a back-to-Africa colonization movement, and to resist Northern participation in the slave trade. In the words of his Masonic biographer Charles H. Wesley, "His drive for freedom had a dual thrust. One directed against the dominating rule of a foreign power in the American colonies, and the other against the bondage of blacks."

Organized Masonic Fraternity

Records of the first third of Hall's life are sparse. The slave trade in Massachusetts was heavy during the first half of the eighteenth century, and Hall's speeches on behalf of African Americans sometimes referred to Africa as a native land, so he may have been born in Africa, but no records have surfaced to support either this idea or another early account stating that he was Barbadian by birth. The best guess as to Hall's birthdate comes from records and newspaper accounts of his death in late 1807 that gave his age as 72, and thus probably places his birth in 1735. The first documentary evidence of his existence comes in the late 1740s in a list of slaves owned by William Hall of Boston, a leather-dresser or leather craftsman. It was probably from his master that Hall took his last name.

In 1756 Hall fathered a son, Primus, who likewise was involved with the Revolution and became an influential black Bostonian. The mother was a servant named Delia who worked in a nearby household. Hall joined a Congregational church in 1762 and married another slave, Sarah Ritchie (or Ritchery, the spelling on her gravestone), the following year. After her death, Hall was married four more times: to Flora Gibbs in 1770, Affee Moody in 1783, Nabby Ayrauly in 1798, and Zilpha (or Sylvia) Johnson in 1804. He learned the leather trade from his master and was given his freedom, in the form of a certificate of manumission, by William Hall in 1770. By Gibbs he had another son, Prince Africanus.

Soon after marrying Gibbs, Hall acquired a small house with a workshop and opened a leather goods store called The Golden Fleece. He also worked as a caterer. Hall's store later became a meeting place for the Masonic fraternity he organized. What drew Hall to Masonry in the first place is not known for certain, but fraternal organizations of various kinds served important community functions among free blacks at various stages in American history. Hall noticed that British soldiers in Boston had set up satellite chapters of Masonic lodges in their home countries, and he may have concluded that joining the Masons represented a path toward integration into the mainstream of American society. He may also have been motivated by the summary rejection of antislavery petitions by the colony's government in 1773 and 1774. In 1775, just before the outbreak of war in Lexington and Concord, Hall was one of a group of 14 free blacks who became members of a Masonic lodge set up by British troops stationed in Boston, perhaps an offshoot of the Irish Lodge No. 441 in the city of Dublin. The date was said to be March 6, 1775.

The membership seemed to confer only partial rights within the Masonic organization, however. When the British garrison withdrew just days later, the sergeant who had headed the British group gave Hall and his companions permission to meet as a lodge and to march in public and funeral processions. But the group was not officially chartered and could not confer membership or degrees on other Masons. With Hall as master and leader, the black Masons formed the African Lodge No. 1 on July 3, 1775; it was the first black order of Free and Accepted Masons anywhere in the world.

Made Drum Heads for Military

The question of Hall's actual participation in fighting against the British remains to be settled. Several histories of the large African-American presence in the American army (according to some estimates, one in every seven soldiers was black) state that he took up arms, but the name Prince Hall was a fairly common one. What can be documented is that Hall provided Revolutionary troops with leather drumheads, according to a 1777 bill of sale.

It was at around this time that Hall began to lead his fellow black Bostonians in trying to persuade the young nation to live up to its ideas of liberty and equality for all. He was one of four signers at the head of a 1777 petition demanding the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. The petition's aim, in its own words (as quoted by Sidney Kaplan in The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution), was that the "inhabitanc of these Stats" would, if slavery were abolished, no longer be "chargeable with the inconsistancey of acting themselves the part which they condemn and oppose in others." The Massachusetts legislature sent a bill introduced by sympathetic white lawmakers along to the national Congress of the Confederation, but the petition was not acted upon; slavery in Massachusetts would not be abolished until 1783, when it was ended by a state judicial decision.

Hall continued to operate his successful leather shop and to seek official recognition for his small Masonic lodge, its numbers further decimated as blacks joined the American army and were dispersed along the battlefront. In 1782 he penned a retort to a newspaper article that disparagingly referred to the lodge as "St. Blacks" and made light of its Feast of St. John observances. In 1784 Hall (as quoted by Kaplan) wrote to Masons in England that "this Lodge hath been founded almost eight years and we have had only a Permit to Walk on St. John's Day and to Bury our Dead in manner and form … we hope [you] will not deny us nor treat us Beneath the rest of our fellowmen, although Poor yet Sincere Brethren of the Craft." The lodge's official charter was granted, but three years passed before it was issued and brought to America. What had been known as African Lodge No. 1 was now African Lodge No. 459.

Hall by that time was a Boston property owner, taxpayer, and voter, and the change solidified his status as a community leader. As a revolt among dispossessed farmers and war veterans broke out in western Massachusetts under the name Shays's Rebellion, Hall and other blacks faced the problem of which side to support—and of whether their support would be welcomed. Hall wrote in November of 1786 to Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin offering to raise black volunteers for the effort to put down the rebellion. The offer was turned down by a state government afraid of what an armed black militia might do.

Proposed African Colony

Disillusioned by this turn of events, Hall threw his support behind a still-tiny back-to-Africa movement. In time, the idea of African colonization would gain support and result in the establishment of the nation of Liberia, but Hall brought together 12 members of his lodge to sign a petition dated January 4, 1787, that was presented to the Massachusetts House, years ahead of even the earliest actual return voyages to Africa by African Americans or African Canadians. The importance of Hall's petition lies less in its effect—it went nowhere—than for what it reveals about the deferral of African-American dreams that followed the American Revolution. Hall's petition (quoted and reproduced by Kaplan) referred to "very disagreeable and disadvantageous circumstances; most of which must attend us, so long as we and our children live in America."

With the failure of this initiative, Hall turned his attention to improving the living conditions of black Bostonians. In 1787 and again in 1796, he led drives to provide free state schooling for black Massachusetts children, which, he argued, they were entitled to inasmuch as black tax payments supported white schools. Finally, in 1800 he offered his own home for use as a school; two students from Harvard University agreed to serve as instructors.

Hall began to discuss the evils of slavery in general, and he developed into a powerful orator. In a 1797 Feast of St. John address to the African Lodge in West Cambridge (quoted by Kaplan), he spoke of the abuse black Bostonians endured on holidays at the hands of "a mob or horde of shameless, low-lived, envious, spiteful persons" who in groups of "twenty or thirty cowards fall upon one man" or tear the clothes off old women. But he looked to the slave revolt that had occurred in Haiti as a sign of hope: if liberty had begun "to dawn in some of the West-Indian islands, then, sure enough, God would act for justice in New England too, and let Boston and the World know, that He hath no respect of persons; and that that bulwark of envy, pride, scorn, and contempt, which is so visible to be seen in some … shall fall, to rise no more."

The idea of black Masonry began to spread, especially as Hall's lodge received chilly treatment from white Masonic groups. New lodges, often bearing Hall's name, were chartered in other cities, beginning in 1797 in Providence, Rhode Island. A black Masonic lodge in Philadelphia played a key role in the evolution of independent black institutions in that city. Hall remained active until his death in Boston on April 4, 1807; his final interment the following year was attended by a large crowd of African Americans. The branch of Freemasonry he founded continued to exert a strong influence in black communities. The list of famous Prince Hall Masons in the twentieth century was a long one, and included educator Booker T. Washington, writer W.E.B. DuBois, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, author Alex Haley, bandleaders William "Count" Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, publisher John H. Johnson, and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, among many others.


Kaplan, Sidney, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, 1770–1800, New York Graphic Society, 1973.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed., Notable Black American Men, Gale, 1998.

Wesley, Charles H., Prince Hall: Life and Legacy, United Supreme Council Southern Jurisdiction, Prince Hall Affiliation, 1977.


"Prince Hall Freemasonry," http://www.freemasonry.org/phylaxis/prince_hall.htm (February 13, 2006).

"Who Is Prince Hall?" http://www.mindspring.com/∼johnsonx/whoisph.htm (February 13, 2006).

Hall, Prince

views updated May 23 2018

Hall, Prince

December 4, 1807

The place and date of civic leader Prince Hall's birth are not known. Recent research has cast doubt on the traditional versions of his early years, which placed his birth in the West Indies. Current evidence indicates that Hall became a member of the School Street Congregational Church of Boston in 1762. In 1770 he was manumitted by William Hall, a Boston craftsman, who probably had owned him since the 1740s. In 1775 Hall petitioned to join Boston's St. John's Lodge of Freemasons and was turned down. Hall and fourteen other free African-American men then sought and received admission to a Masonic lodge affiliated with an Irish regiment in the British army stationed in Boston. Obtaining a permit from the military lodge to participate in some Masonic activities as an independent body, Hall and the others continued as Masons in a limited capacity throughout the Revolutionary War.

Throughout his adult life Hall worked in the Boston area, both as a leather crafter in his shop, the Golden Fleece, and as a caterer. During the Revolutionary War he supplied leather drumheads to the Continental army, and it is also possible that he joined it as a combatant. Discussions of him in the letters of his white and black contemporaries show that they looked upon him as the social and political leader of African Americans in Boston. Thus, in the early years of the war Hall signed petitions to the Continental Congress requesting permission for African Americans to fight in the war. Employing arguments analogous to those used by the revolutionaries to justify their revolt against the British, on January 13, 1777, Hall and others also petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to outlaw slavery.

In 1784 Hall, as master of the provisional African Lodge, applied for a charter from the London Grand Lodge. Although the charter establishing African Lodge 459 was granted in September of that year, Hall did not receive it until April 1787. He then served as its Grand Master until his death at the age of seventy-two. (Several of his annual addresses to the lodge, placing the history of the lodge in the context of Masonic and African history, were published during his lifetime.) In the year after his death, Hall's followers adopted his name for what remains the largest and most highly regarded African-American fraternal order, the Prince Hall Masons.

During Shays's Rebellion in 1786, Hall, acting as a spokesperson for Boston's black community, wrote to assure the Massachusetts state government of his and his fellow Masons' political loyalty and willingness to serve against Shays's followers. However, only months later, Hall formally submitted a suggestion to the legislature that it consider financially assisting blacks who wished to return to Africa and establish an independent state. In both instances the state government declined to act on Hall's petitions.

In his capacity as Grand Master and leader of Boston's African-American community, Hall protested the seizure of three free blacks (one a Mason) in Boston by slave traders, and in February 1788 successfully petitioned the Massachusetts government for their return. In the same document he denounced the slave trade, which contributed significantly to the March 26, 1788, decision banning such trade in Massachusetts. In other letters and petitions to the state government, the politically active Hall demanded full citizenship and the establishment of public schools for blacks. (In 1800 Hall opened in his own home one of the first schools in Boston for free black children.) Hall died in Boston in 1807.

See also Fraternal Orders; Slave Trade


Grimshaw, William H. Official History of Freemasonry Among the Colored People in North America. New York: Macoy, 1903.

Logan, Rayford W., and Michael R. Winston. Dictionary of American Negro Biography. New York: Norton, 1982.

Wesley, Charles H. Prince Hall: Life and Legacy, 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: United Supreme Council, 1983.

peter schilling (1996)

Hall, Prince

views updated May 14 2018

Hall, Prince

HALL, PRINCE. (1735?–1807). Abolitionist. Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, perhaps in 1735, Hall—though the son of an English artisan and a free black woman—was a slave of William Hall. In 1752 he went to Boston, joining the Congregational Church and gaining his official freedom in 1770, whereupon he opened a leather shop. In 1775 Hall and fourteen other African Americans organized a Masonic lodge in Boston, Hall serving as its "worshipful master" until his death. During the Revolution, Hall made leather drumheads for the Continental army, probably serving briefly as well, and he spoke out often in favor of the abolition of slavery. Hall and seven other African Americans petitioned the Massachusetts assembly in 1777 to end slavery in their state, pointing out the obvious hypocrisy of fighting for freedom while preserving slavery. The petition was sent on to Congress, which ignored it. During Shays's Rebellion in 1786, Hall's Masonic lodge volunteered to raise a militia company to aid the state in putting down the western Massachusetts uprising. Governor John Bowdoin, however, refused their offer. The following year Hall led a petition drive requesting the state to pay for black emigration to Africa, arguing that African Americans could never enjoy freedom in America. Again, Hall was ignored.

In 1788 Hall finally received a positive response to one of his petitions when he and his lodge, supported by Quakers and several clergymen, protested the abduction of free blacks by slave traders operating in Boston. With surprising speed, the state assembly banned the slave trade in Massachusetts in March 1788 and the state successfully negotiated the release of the kidnapped freemen from the French West Indian island of St. Bartholomew. Hall's petitions consistently threw the ideals of the Revolution back at the state's leadership, as when he pointed out in 1787 that, although they paid taxes, blacks did not have access to many public institutions, including the schools. In 1796 Hall opened a school for black children in his home to meet their educational need. Hall died in Boston on 4 December 1807.

SEE ALSO African Americans in the Revolution.?


Wesley, Charles H. Prince Hall, Life and Legacy. Washington, D.C.: United Supreme Council, 1977.

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