Early Civil Rights Leader
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.