The Library of Congress’ collections contain a variety of material associated with Prince Hall Freemasonry, the oldest recognized and continuously active organization founded in 1775 by African Americans, including manuscripts, photographs, and books.
Sibyl E. Moses, Researcher and Reference Services Division
Created: September 24, 2019
Last Updated: November 7, 2019
Prince Hall Freemasonry is the oldest recognized and continuously active organization founded by African Americans. Prince Hall Freemasonry had its beginnings on March 6, 1775 when Prince Hall (ca. 1748-1807), an abolitionist and civil rights activist, along with fourteen other free black men were initiated into freemasonry. These men later organized African Lodge No. 1 on July 3, 1775. In 1784 they petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter; it was granted and African Lodge No. 1 became African Lodge No. 459 of Boston, Massachusetts. This organization laid the foundation for African American citizenship, education, and for the improvement of the condition of blacks.
The following guide contains selected items from the Library of Congress’ collections concerning Prince Hall and Prince Hall Freemasonry. One will find works written by or about individuals who are Prince Hall Masons, as well as official publications or organizational records issued or created by Prince Hall Grand Lodges and other organizations with whom Prince Hall Masons interacted, notably the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
These works represent only a few of the many resources that are available about Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African American benevolent, charitable, and fraternal organizations. Finally, please see the list of “Library of Congress Subject Headings Useful for Further Research.” We encourage you to visit the Library of Congress and pursue new areas of research and unexplored aspects of African American history and culture through these resources and others.