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220px-Prince_hall_portrait.jpg (26998 bytes)


Early Civil Rights Leader (1735-1807)

An outspoken opponent of racial oppression in colonial New England, Prince Hall was the first organizer of Blacks in American History.  Born in 1735, Hall was sold into slavery after being shipped to Boston at the age of 14.  A witness to the early stages of the American Revolution, he remained a slave until 1770, the same year the Boston massacre spurred the colonists to free themselves from the British rule.  Meanwhile, Hall determined that a free Black was not much better off than a slave and began to fight for his civil rights.  It was nearly impossible, however, for a free Black to raise his status.  There were no Black churches, schools, newspapers, or other types of institutions through which the Black community could be uplifted. 

Hall, though, managed to find a way.  In 1775, he became a member of the world's largest fraternal society, the Order of the Free and Accepted masons, and then established his own branch for Blacks, the African Lodge.  Officially chartered in 1781, Hall's Masonic lodge enabled him to unite with other Blacks and publicly protest their lowly position in American society.  Together they campaigned for the Continental army to accept slaves as soldiers and successfully worked to end the slave trade in Massachusetts.   They also petitioned for Blacks to be formally educated, as Hall turned his home into the first black school in Boston.  A man of tremendous conviction, Prince Hall was one of the true heroes of early America.

Revised: July 18, 2013.