Our Two Masonic Powers
Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., FPS
President, Phylaxis Society
Editor's Note: On July 8, 1989 a unique Masonic meeting was held in Des Moines, Iowa. Joseph A. Walkes, a well-known Prince Hall Mason addressed a meeting of Iowa Research Lodge Number Two. Representatives from both the Grand Lodge of Iowa and The Prince Hall Grand Lodge were in attendance. This is the paper which Brother Walkes presented.
It is indeed a privilege to be invited before Research Lodge No. 2 to make this presentation, which I call our "Two Masonic Powers." As president of the Phylaxis Society, the research arm of Prince Hall Freemasonry, I bring you greetings.
There was a time when such a gathering as this would not have taken place, a rarity indeed, whereby mainstream Freemasonry would invite a member of the Prince Hall Masonic power over for a chat. The Phylaxis society used to keep track of this type of event but it is happening all across the country today, to the point where we no longer keep tabs on it. It is a renaissance of a sort, a reaching out if you will; an attempt to bring an end to the long nightmare of darkness that has brought shame to American Freemasonry.
Those of you who have read my book Black Square and Compass, will find the events that led up to the formation of the Phylaxis Society, how it grew from the pangs of hostility and hurt to the presentation this year of medals from our counterparts of the Philalethes Society.
Things change and we make adjustments in life as maturing takes place. I wrote in my Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book, which Research Lodge No. 2 published, that the most segregated institution in the country was "American Freemasonry, to its shame!" However, today we see sweeping changes being made as our two Masonic Powers come ever closer together and this will hopefully bear good fruit for the craft.
I am not a spokesman for Prince Hall Freemasonry and like most Masonic historians, scholars, writers. I am not without my critics within my own fraternity, because I do have a sharp tongue and a sharp pen. But that is the nature of the beast for those who dwell in Masonic research and Masonic truths.
The ancient Greeks accorded a sincere and due respect to that body of knowledge we now term liberal arts and sciences by honoring nine beautiful female deities with the title of "Muse," a title indicating thoughtful intellectual skills.
Clio, appropriately known as "The Proclaimer," became the muse of history. She never resigned her post throughout the centuries, and she still reigns over those of us who call ourselves historians. She carries a heroic trumpet, with which she proclaims events of the past, and a water clock with which she measures the passage of time.
Her mother, if you can remember, is named Memory. The tempting muse of history has been courted by writers and scholars of Masonic history with only varying degrees of success.
Fidelity to the muse is often painful; history accurately understood and recorded is at best a difficult partner, one whose demands never cease and whose companionship often grates at the truth of life.
But the fidelity is difficult, the terror created when the muse is scorned is far worse, and she wreaks a vengeance upon all individuals and institutions who would belittle or change or ignore her.
She is however a reality and continues to seek knowledge and in our Research Lodges around the world, be they Quatuor Coronati in London, or Iowa Research Lodge No. 2 or Lux E Tenebris Research Chapter of the Phylaxis Society, we come together under the sound of her trumpet to open the eyes of the craft to the pure beauty of Freemasonry.
If it were true that the absence of historical knowledge truly protects, then the only logical course would be to abolish historical investigation. If the absence of historical knowledge protects, then our muse's trumpet sounds a false note. Understanding history is difficult because while historical understanding has the virtue of giving a sense of cohesion to a particular community, it has the view of dividing the community also.
Masonry in America mirrors mainstream America and recorded American history itself has reflected the division of the communities. In other words we do not view history as you do, and you do not view history as we do. Perhaps we bring our cultural baggage with us, but the muse is only interested in historical truths, but man seems not to understand.
For some reason when mainstream America looks at blacks, they first want to identify any one with a suit on as some sort of preacher. I do not come here like a preacher with fire and brimstone, to scream and yell, and jump and pound to make a point.
Hopefully, one need not bray like a jackass to make intelligent men understand. I do not necessarily fit that mold because I am a Mormon, or Latter Day Saint if that is of any interest to you, and if you know anything about Mormons, they come with a still voice of reason. Therefore I hope I will be able to open your minds and to give you a glimpse of our thoughts. Those of closed minds may just as well leave, for they are hopeless and lost not only to us, but to American Freemasonry as well.
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, my mentor, the greatest African-American ever born on these shores, a Prince Hall Freemason, said it best when he wrote:
One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget the George Washington was a slave owner, or that Thomas Jefferson had mulatto children, or that Alexander Hamilton had Negro blood, and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.
Ebony magazine editor, Lerone Bennett, Jr., recorded it correctly when he noted that:
The idea is simple, but the implications are profound and requires a rethinking of the time-line of black America, which began with the black pioneers and not the white founding fathers. The white founding fathers were not the black founding fathers; the white constitutional convention was not the black constitutional convention; the white beginning was not the black beginning. For, as everybody knows, the white fathers defined the white beginning as a black negation. To them, and to many who came after them, America was a white place defined negatively by the absence of blackness. The puritans' celebrated dream of a city on the hill was a dream of a white city. The vision of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, slaveholders all, was a vision of white."
It means simply that Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson's slaves lived a different declaration of independence, a different revolution and different America.
Black America was therefore present at its own creation. It was not only present, it was present and acting — it helped to make itself and we must never lose sight of that fact. And while just last week America celebrated it 213th year as a nation, Prince Hall Freemasonry celebrated its 214th year of existence.
And so this separation is reflected in American Masonic history and while we of the Prince Hall Craft are well aware of mainstream Masonic history and your men of mark, you have very little knowledge of their true anti-masonic nature. Let me explain.
Jerry Marsengill noted is his preface to my book and I quote: "While editing the book, I found myself offended at some of the statements and some of the quotations. I was especially disturbed when Louis Block, one of my Masonic heroes, was quoted as saying, in effect, that Negroes were not mentally or morally qualified to be Freemasons. When I looked up the reference I was even more disturbed at Block..."
Some years ago I wrote an article for the Phylaxis Magazine which was titled "Regular Freemasonry and the Ku Klux Klan" where I traced the history of Klansman Albert Pike and the role of the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, which wrongly calls itself the Mother Supreme Council of the world, and its involvement with the anti-Black, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-American Klan.
Many were shocked by my article and I can remember while doing research for it, I found a book on Pike in the Library of Congress, and in it the author wrote that it could not be true that Pike had any role in the Klan, yet the facts were there for anyone who wanted to take the time to do the necessary research. And so we have Albert Pike not only buried in Washington, D.C., in the house of the Temple and there is also a statue of him on one of the streets in this predominately black city, which whites call "Washington", and blacks call D.C. and the black kids call "Chocolate City."
Our muse of history would surely drop her head in shame and so should Freemasonry. For history demands the truth! In a word Pike comes with blood on his apron!
I was always curious in reading Albert Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry why he was so opposed to Masonry for blacks, and wanting to get to the bottom of it, I began to track his life, and I was later to learn and record in my book Black Square and Compass that during the Civil War, Mackey has to go before black union troops and plead with them to save his city and later witness these black soldiers march through and occupy his home town of Charleston, S.C. and while Dr. Mackey would take on the mantle of Negrophobia, had he been a true follower of the muse he might have learned that with these black union troops a Prince Hall Masonic Lodge was attached. A Lodge that had been meeting within the union lines and obviously had the blessing of their white officers, many who were Freemasons as it is recorded in the history of that black regiment.
Our muse of history demands the truth! The Caucasian Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which bears responsibility for the separation of our two Masonic powers, claims it was founded in 1733, while all of universal Freemasonry knows that this is not true and the fact that she failed to extend the fraternal hand of friendship to Prince Hall and his African Lodge. Nevertheless, we are here, a Masonic power, older than the United States itself, and we are here to remind all of the falsehoods of the past in what Bro. W.E.B. Du Bois called "the propaganda of history" that is "lies agreed upon;" the gathering up of a vast number of materials and then the selection of those materials which support one's thesis, while discarding others.
Our muse of history demands the truth, or as Bro. Du Bois would write:
As a student of science, I want to be fair, objective and judicial: to let no searing of the memory by intolerable insult and cruelty make me fail to sympathize with human frailties and contradiction, in the eternal paradox of good and evil. But armed and warned by all this, and fortified by long study of the facts, I stand aghast at what American historians have done to this field.
Our muse of history demands the truth, and what does this say to you, members of a Research Lodge, to be honest, to take the required time to do proper research, and present your facts as truthfully as you can.
As I read the works of mainstream Masonic writers, published in the "Philalethes Magazine" and a number of Masonic Lodges of research, I have come to the conclusion that most of the authors do not know what they are talking about, and especially if they are attempting to write about Prince Hall Freemasonry.
As scholars of this Iowa research Lodge, do you recall Melvin M. Johnson's book. "The Beginning of Freemasonry in America" where he wrote:
Nothing can justify the deliberate concealment of a reliable document or the publication of that which is manifestly fraudulent for the purpose of bolstering up an argument in support of some pet theory which the fraternity is asked to believe.
I mention this because in the recent editions of the "California Freemason" has been running an article titled "Our Separated Brethren Prince Hall Masons: Part I of the Story of a Slave Who Became a Mason". The author, a Past Master from New Zealand, describes how Prince Hall was seized in some part of West Africa as a lad between 11 and 14 years of age, brought to New England by a slave trader and sold as a slave.
As a reference this author, who has let his imagination run away with him, gives only one, that is to an article by George Draffen, Past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland entitled "Prince Hall Freemasonry".
What our New Zealand author was not aware of was that George Draffen was an honorary fellow of the Phylaxis Society, and the article in question was published simultaneously in the transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 and the "Phylaxis Magazine", and that Bro. Draffen made it known that this was only his view, in a word his personal view, and that there was no documentation to back up this view. Yet our New Zealand author made it a point not to mention that fact.
And it is for this reason that I say that mainstream Freemasons should not write about Prince Hall Freemasons. For you bring shame to the muse of history.
Harold Van Buren Voorhis, John Sherman, Edward R. Cusick, Henry Wilson Coil, Sr., Alphonse Cerza, Albert Pike, Albert Mackey and others who are held in high esteem by mainstream American Freemasonry, are held in contempt by Prince Hall Freemasonry, for they know us not!
While they often write about our patron, Prince Hall, and attempt to pass judgment on him, none ever record his words, and if you want to know the measure of a man, read what he writes, read what he says.
June 24, 1797, Prince Hall ends his charge to African Lodge:
Live and act as Masons, that you may die as Masons; let those despisers see, altho' many of us cannot read, yet by our searches and researches into men and things, we have supposed that defect; and if they will let us we shall call ourselves a chartered Lodge of just and lawful Masons; be always ready to give an answer to those that ask you a question; give the right hand of affection and fellowship to whom it so justly belongs; let the color and complexion be what it will, let the nation be what it may, for they are your brethren, and it is your indispensable duty so to do; let them as Masons deny this, and we and the world know what to think of them be they ever so grand; for we know this was Solomon's creed, Solomon's creed did I say, it is the decree of the Almighty, and all Masons have learnt it: 'Tis plain market language, and plain and true facts need no apologies.
And who can forget in the same charge these moving lines by Prince Hall:
Among these numerous sons and daughters of distress, I shall begin with our friends and brethren; and first, let us see them dragged from their native country by the iron hand of tyranny and oppression, from their dear friends and connections, with weeping eyes and aching hearts, to a strange land and strange people, whose tender mercies are cruel; and there to bear the iron yoke of slavery and cruelty till death as a friend relieve them.
Or again from the same charge:
Patience I say, for were we not possessed of a great measure of it you could not bear up under the daily insults you meet with in the streets of Boston; much more on public days of recreation, how are you shamefully abused, and that at such a degree that you may truly be said to carry your lives in your hands, and the arrows of death are flying about your heads; helpless old women have their clothes torn off their backs, even to the exposing of their nakedness, and by whom are these disgraceful and abusive actions committed, not by the men born and bred in Boston, for they are better bred; but by a mob or horde of shameless, low-lived, envious, spiteful persons, some of them not long since, servants in gentlemen's kitchens, scouring knives, tending horses, and driving chaises. 'Twas said by a gentleman who saw that filthy behavior in the common, that in all the places he had been in, he never saw so cruel behaviors in all his life, and that a slave in the West Indies, on Sunday and Holidays enjoys himself and friends without any molestation. Not only this man, but many in town who hath seen their behavior to you, and that without any provocation — twenty or thirty cowards all upon one man — have wondered at the patience of blacks; tis not for want of courage in you, for they know that they dare not face you man for man, but in a mob, which we despise, and had rather suffer wrong than to do wrong, to the disturbance of the community and the disgrace of our reputation: for every good citizen doth honor to the laws of the state where he resides.
Isn't it strange that those who attempt to write about Prince Hall Freemasonry, never, but never, record the words of Prince Hall. I ask you, brethren of this Research Lodge, be honest to the muse of history, do the proper research, and above all, be truthful!
Let me share this thought with you, it is taken from my book Black Square and Compass, Part I of chapter 9, titled "The Masonic Philosophy of Samuel W. Clark". Taken from his book The Negro Mason in Equity, written in 1886:
Masons of the world, wheresoever dispersed, the Negro Mason of America stands before you today as a just and upright Mason, and as such demands that you shall try him by the square of virtue, and having tried him and found him just and true, he further demands that you deny him not, but that you receive him and accept him, accord unto him all of the rights that may belong to him. He does not make this demand because he is a Negro, neither does he ask that you do this as a favor, but he demands it because he is a Mason as you are, and because his right to the title of Free and Accepted Mason is equal to yours, no more, no less!
And Bro. Clark also wrote:
As Negro Masons, we need expect no recognition from organized white American Masons. I plead for none; I care for none at the sacrifice of honor and dignity. I stand as just, as true, as pure a Freemason as ever trod God's green earth. My title is as perfect as that of the Prince of Wales or the President of the United States, as he who travels with the caravan over the desert or he who dwells on the plains of the Far West. Wherever he may be upon the continents of the land or the islands of the sea. If he be a Freemason he is my brother and can not deny me if he would!
In other words render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.
Brethren of the Research Lodge, be faithful to the muse of history, do not insult her by being untruthful. Do your homework, do the necessary research into your Masonic subjects, leave no stones unturned in the search for the truth. Do not be like your brethren of the past and tell half truths and falsehoods.
Do not allow your imagination to run away with you, like Mackey and his so-called 25 landmarks.
And should you decide to write about this Masonic power called Prince Hall Freemasonry come to this side of the table to learn the other side of the issue. Come to those Prince Hall Masonic scholars who have eaten well at the table of Masonic research, leave your baggage on the other side of the table, and come and walk in our shoes.
Or the muse of history will look at you with contempt and pity and Prince Hall Freemasonry will pass judgment on you and the Phylaxis Society will tell the world that you know not!
We who are Masonic historians, scholars, writers, have an obligation to the Craft to do our work well.
Let me close with this thought: I am proud to be a Prince Hall Freemason, I am proud to carry the torch that Prince Hall lit before this country was born, I am proud of those millions of brethren who continued the heritage, from that day, through the days of slavery, through the Civil War and all other wars that have been fought by this nation, through the days of darkness, of evil, of hatred, of persecution, of discrimination, of racism, of Masonic separation, and I am here to say to all within the sound of my voice.
I am proud, proud, proud to be a Prince Hall Freemason, and in the words of the Prince Hall credo, "I believe in Freemasonry, that corporate adventure in universal brotherhood, despising kinship with no child of the All-Father. I believe in Prince Hall Masonry — a door of benevolence — securely tiled against the unworthy, but open wide to men of good report, whether Aryan or Hottentot. I believe in Masonic vows — the troths of true men plighted in their better selves."