Monday, September 18, 2006

Masons groups join in 'brotherhood'

Masons groups join in 'brotherhood'
Race separated men for 150 years; now, they'll grow stronger together
By MIKE CHALMERS, The News Journal
Posted Sunday, September 17, 2006

WILMINGTON -- With regal pomp and the flourish of a pen, two of Delaware's oldest organizations ended more than 150 years of racial separation Saturday.

The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Delaware, whose members are white, and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Delaware, whose members are black, signed a compact of recognition at a two-hour ceremony at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

The event celebrated what one speaker called "the universality of our brotherhood."

"Now, we have two grand lodges in Delaware," said Ronald W. Conaway, grand master of the traditional Grand Lodge. "That's something this grand state can be proud of."

James R. Fitzgerald Jr., grand master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, said masonry itself is not racially discriminatory, but men's application of it has been in the past. Saturday's ceremony was one step in changing that practice.

"This is the future of our organizations, as we become stronger in mutual recognition," he said. "With these newfound friendships, we hope that masonry in Delaware will go to another step."

Masons from both grand lodges packed the Opera House's third-floor hall. They wore black tuxedos, white aprons decorated with symbols of the office they hold and gold "collars" made of sparkling chain links. Their enthusiastic baritone voices reverberated through the hall, and their applause was muted only by the white gloves they wore.

With the signing, Delaware became the 38th state where the traditional and Prince Hall grand lodges have agreed on some form of mutual recognition. The remaining states are all in the southeastern United States.

Discussions about mutual recognition of the two grand lodges began four years ago over a dinner in Dover. James S. Russell Jr., grand master of the traditional Grand Lodge, and Solomon Henry, grand master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, discussed ways to bring their organizations closer together.

Delaware masons formed their traditional Grand Lodge in 1806, forged from four lodges chartered in Maryland and Pennsylvania. It now includes 28 subordinate lodges and about 5,400 members statewide.

In 1849, black masons formed their own Grand Lodge in Delaware, known as a Prince Hall lodge after a black mason in the late 1700s. The group now has 550 members and 12 lodges.

The mutual recognition is long overdue, said Robert McGee, first district deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. Racism kept the groups apart for too long, he said.

"We both practice the same principles and morality," said McGee, a mason since 1978. "It's a shame it's taken so long to sign this compact."

McGee said he became a mason because his father was one and because the group's ideals meshed with his own sense of civic duty. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge is involved in mentoring teens and feeding the hungry, he said.

"I felt right at home joining an organization like this," McGee said. "We're on the same wavelength in terms of what we want to do with our communities."

Attending the ceremony was Floyd Bagwell Jr., grand master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Connecticut. His organization and the traditional Grand Lodge in Connecticut became the first groups to formally recognize each other in 1989.

Also, the grand masters from the traditional and Prince Hall grand lodges in Maryland, which recognized each other in April, attended and addressed the Delaware members.

Ronald Belanger, of the traditional Maryland Grand Lodge, said the term "recognition" doesn't go far enough in describing the ceremony played out Saturday. The two grand lodges have always known the other existed, of course. What's different now, he said, is they acknowledge their shared heritage and values.

"For years, we have sat here and listened to stories and tales and misconceptions about why we should not offer the hand of brotherly love and affection and respect to one another," Belanger said. "After 157 years, we're going to stretch our hands across a chasm of ignorance and intolerance and say, 'Welcome, my brother, welcome.' "
Contact Mike Chalmers at 324-2790 or

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Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:05 pm
As Mr. Henrick wrote I also left my lodge here in Delaware for many reasons but the biggest was the rift between the Grand Lodge and Prince Hall. It made me ashamed to be a member of a fraternity where I could not sit in open lodge with a member of my family because of skin color, this pact between both Grand Lodges is a huge step and will strengthen both fraternities.

Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 11:07 am
Mr. Henrick,

You give hope to the thought of a racially void world. I am a member of a fraternity founded by African American men. We have long had white members. Though their numbers are few, While I was completing our ritual I learned that our founders never included exclusionary language to deny membership based on race or creed in our constitution.

Many members of my organization are also Masonic men as they pledged my organization as undergrads and later pledged Mason after college. These men pointed out some of the same things you said in your post regarding the two different Lodges of Mason. Something interesting that they did share with me on one occasion was that a couple of our founders were Masonic before founding our fraternity for college men. They pointed to the separation of the two houses as one reason they ensured admittance to our fraternity would never be on the basis of race or creed.

Congrats to all Masonic men. This is a great day for your organization. I imagine it's like getting a visit from a brother you heard of, but never really knew!

Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 9:01 am
One wonders if a "white" Lodge will now allow blacks to join their Lodge. Racial segregation has long been practiced by the Masonic Lodge. I was informed at my Third Degree that we must never give an application to a black man because "he will be refused entrance into the Lodge." And this lecture was given by a man who was well acquainted with the law at the time because he mentioned it. Apparently, the law didn't apply to the Masonic Lodge. This was just one of the reasons why I eventually quit the Lodge.

Freemasonry requires that an applicant believe in God. That sounds good but Satan also believes in God, so that requirement doesn't amount to anything. God requires people to "love one another." There is no love in racial segregation. Jesus said: "They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me."

Racism is a sin because it condones non-acceptance of other members of God's creation. And many Christian men go along with this segregation. It used to infuriate me on Masonic Sunday when Masons made their annual church visitation, to listen to one of their members take the pulpit to promote Freemasonry, knowing that they also support racism.

This official recognition of black Lodges really is no big thing. The article shows the shame of what the "white" Lodges have done for many years, and it doesn't show that anything is going to change. Throwing racism out of the Lodge is a must but it must first be thrown out of the hearts of men, and I doubt this can be achieved.


Mary and the Widow's Son said...

The Burning Taper blog has called upon F. Ray Jackson, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, to immediately issue an edict recognizing our African-American Prince Hall Masonic brothers, or to publicly explain why he will not.

The Grand Lodge of Delaware has recently become the last state outside the Old South to recognize Prince Hall Masons.

It is well past time for the rest of the grand lodges of Freemasonry to stop the racism and bigotry, and to recognize black Masons as true Masons.

Widow's Son

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