No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed.
An accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’
guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s
rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the
Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four
lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that
point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason and its’ first Most Worshipful Grand Master in the new world. Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and charitable works. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The five million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that uses symbols and ritual to teach morality to its members. Equality between men is a key value in Masonic teaching, but unfortunately, it has not always been practiced. When African-Americans in Colonial America weren’t allowed into white Masonic lodges, they formed their own.
Black Freemasonry began when Prince 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 Boston Harbor on March 6, 1775.The Master of the Lodge was Sergeant John Batt. When the British Regiments left Boston on March 17, 1776, a Dispensation was issued by Batt authorizing Prince Hall and his brethren to meet as a Lodge under restrictions. Under this permit, African Lodge No. 1 was formed July 3, 1776.
For nine years these brethren, with other free black men who had received their degrees in Europe, assembled together and enjoyed their limited privileges as Masons, distressed that Prince Hall's attempts to formally associate African Lodge with Caucasian (Provincial) Grand Lodges were frustrated by bigotry and racism. It was an ironic period in American history when colonists embraced the doctrine of independence, liberty, and equality to justify the revolt against English rule while promoting and condoning the economic and social exploitation of blacks debased by slavery.
More than two centuries later, Prince Hall Masonry, which is considered regular by the majority of North America's mainstream grand lodges, is considered irregular by a small number of Grand Lodges, residing in the South. Is there truth behind the words, brother love, truth and relief among all Freemasons, whether Black or White?
In summary, my source for this project was taken from a book entitled, “Founding Fathers, Secret Societies”, written by Robert Hieronimus. It was very important to see the evolution of Freemasonry in American society, as well as the development of the African American freemasons after their denial of existence from white freemasons in the United States. This blog is to give a little insight of how the history of freemasonry in America was formed.