Disgrace in Alabama
Web-master's Note: I was astonished (at least)
to receive the attached message in the mail. Maybe it's good that this
issue is going to be out in the open, where some light can shine on it.
The following introduction is my personal opinion on the matter below,
and should not be taken as the policy or expression of any lodge or
This is without a doubt the most controversial page I have ever
posted at this web-site. That it will arouse contention within the
Craft is my regret. But that contention is already present, and no
sweet words can plaster over such ill-formed stones. These courses must
be corrected, or our House will fall.
-- by Gary L. Dryfoos
THERE WAS CERTAINLY an era when individual
U.S. grand lodges could debate the rightness of mutual recognition of
the Prince Hall branch of Freemasonry without thereby deserving any
accusation of racism. There were such questions as the regularity of
descent of the Prince Hall bodies and the problem of the
pan-U.S. doctrine of "exclusive jurisdiction" (one grand lodge per
geographic area), not to mention the difficulty created by various
schisms within Prince Hall itself, creating rival claims to regularity
in some states. To a non-Mason, those matters may be obscure, but as
long as Masonry is to continue to be governed by a "grand lodge system",
those questions had to be settled.
That era ended most decisively a few years ago with the announcement
of mutual recognition between United Grand Lodge of England and the
Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts (the closest descendent of
England's original chartered body, African Lodge No 459), a milestone in
the modern history of Freemasonry, which was followed as if a dam had
broken by mutual recognitions in many of the U.S. states and Canadian
My affection for Masonry, and the gentle lessons I have tried to
learn within its walls, incline me to believe that there are still men
of good will within our beloved Craft who have no feelings of race hate
or race fear; or who, having recognized such feelings within their
hearts, have worked to chip those rough edges off from their ashlar, and
yet who still genuinely and sincerely believe that formal matters of
"irregularity" must rule out recognition of the Prince Hall bodies.
To such as these I extend my sincerest fraternal affection, even as I
implore you to return to your Masonic inquiries, to improve
yourself in knowledge of the histories and constitutions and
landmarks of our noble and excellent Institution and then to ask
"If so many grand lodges around the world have found
our Prince Hall brethren to be regular, what special facts do I hold
that would disprove that conclusion?"
However, as the following letter makes clear, not all the good will
in the world can blind a generous Mason to the clear and certain
knowledge that not all opponents of mutual recognition are so
well-intentioned or honorably moved. That such remarks as our Brother
Harris reports can be heard on the lips of men who profess Universal
Brotherhood is a disgrace that cannot fail to move any honest Mason.
It is not many years since my own grand lodge was threatened with
widespread loss of recognition for declaring an intention simply to
investigate what mutual claims of brotherhood it might owe to
its sister Prince Hall grand lodge. That threat is gone. That tide has
No. May the Great Architect grant that this is not simply a tide,
doomed to wash forward and back across the same unhallowed ground
between sea and shore. May this be a shifting of the ground itself. If
Freemasonry is going to survive and flourish, then its promise of
Universality must continue to move towards fulfillment.
So mote it be.
Web-master of "A Page About
Here is the letter from Bro. Alex Harris
Subj: PSOC: Prince Hall Vote in Alabama
Date: 11/17/1999 2:31:31 PM Central Standard Time
From: <Alex.Harris@tbe.com> (Harris, Alex)
I just came from the Grand Lodge meeting in Alabama. The proposed
resolution of intent to recognize Prince Hall Masonry in this state
failed by and overwhelming margin. In all honesty, I only saw two votes
cast in favor of the resolution.
I attempted to give an address on the issue and two sentences into it
the brethren became unruly. The Grand Master asked how much more time I
needed. I said a couple of more minutes. The Grand Master asked the
brethren to behave like Masons and I continued. Then, about a third of
the way into the speech the brethren became so unruly that the Grand
Master asked how much more time I needed. I responded that I had about
a page and a half more and the brethren literally erupted. At that time
I informed the Grand Master that I understood the position he was in and
would take my seat. It was obvious that the Grand Master did not wish
to gavel me down but if I had not stopped the meeting would have become
The Chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee claimed that this
resolution would grant recognition to Prince Hall Masonry even though
the resolution clearly states that it is a resolution of "intent to
accomplish the following". It did not appear to go over well when I
pointed this out. He also seemed to think the resolution should have
gone through his committee even though it does not change anything in
the Constitution or Edicts. Also, he seemed (by his tone of voice) to
take issue with the fact that the resolution refers to our Grand Lodge
as the Grand Lodge of Alabama, F&AM and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge as
the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Alabama, F&AM. I guess he did not
know that those are the proper names each Grand Lodge goes by (at least
in their publications).
All of this transpired in front of the Grand Masters, Grand Lodge
officers or Grand Lodge dignitaries of several other jurisdictions, some
of which recognize Prince Hall Masonry. It was a sad day in this state
to say the least.
I want to stress that I believe all of the Grand Line officers from
the Grand Lodge of Alabama handled themselves with decorum and honor
befitting their position. The rest of the brethren...well I think that
I may get in quite a bit of trouble for telling this story but to be
honest, I am now beyond caring. The truth must be told.
The text of the speech I was delivering is below.
Address to the Grand Lodge of Alabama
by Bro. Alex Harris
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Grand Wardens,
I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to say to you today.
There are so many issues that could be addressed regarding recognition
of Prince Hall Masonry. Eventually though, the argument always comes
back to race. So I decided to acknowledge that fact and to stop trying
so hard to avoid it. Some may be offended by the observations I am
about to make. Some because they have watched quietly as their beloved
Masonry has been used as a front for something they would never be a
part of. Others because they will realize I am describing them and they
have spent their lives convincing themselves they do not hold those
views. And still others, who do not hide the fact they are racist, will
be very upset because these statements will threaten the existence of
our lodges as "whites only".
Many Masons have told me they could not support this resolution
because their lodge will not support it. Others believe in recognition
but are honest enough to admit they do not have the courage to stand up
in lodge and say so. And still others believe in recognition but they
will not support it because they feel Alabama is not ready for it.
Since when are we concerned about whether the population is "ready"
to give up something that is blatantly wrong? Is not part of being a
Mason having the courage to stand up for what is just and right,
regardless of the consequences? Didn't we learn that from the Masonic
founding fathers of our country? Of course, Alabama has been
desegregated for over thirty years. We're ready. Brethren, this is
1999. The country has been integrated for a generation. The world has
been integrated a lot longer than that.
Masons in the rest of the world, and the United States for that
matter, can't fathom our refusal to accept Prince Hall Masons. The
issue is gaining momentum. So far recognition has been granted, or is
being negotiated, in thirty US Jurisdictions, seven Canadian
jurisdictions and nine other foreign jurisdictions. The United Grand
Lodge of England has recognized Prince Hall Masonry in eighteen
jurisdictions. This means that every possible argument against
recognition has already been debated and refuted in other
jurisdictions and there is not a legitimate Masonic reason to deny
recognition to Prince Hall Masonry.
My fear is that one day other jurisdictions will withdraw recognition
from Alabama because they believe us to be clandestine since we refuse
to recognize the brotherhood of all men. If you think it can't happen,
talk to Masons in other jurisdictions. They are discussing it. Will
their Grand Lodges take action? I do not know. If they do not address
our lack of action then someone, somewhere, will do the same thing we
have done here today. They will feel their Grand Lodge is ignoring a
vital issue and propose a resolution themselves.
Too many Masons don't want to sit in lodge with blacks. Fine points
of Masonry have been perverted to defend racism that would not be
tolerated in the rest of society. You do not want to know the
statements I have heard since this resolution was proposed. I am going
to tell you some of them anyway because they should be heard.
[At this point I had to abandon the speech and take my seat.]
You need to know what Masonry is harboring today. A Past Master told
me there are lodges I should not visit because I might not make it out
of there. Another Past Master stated that "My grand-children may have
to go to school with them but I sure won't sit in lodge with them." He
also stated that, if this resolution passes, he and all his sons would
be forced to leave Masonry and that we would lose at least half our
members. I have been asked "what is going on at your lodge with all this
'nigger' talk". I have been asked if I wanted to sit in lodges with
"blue-gums". I have never heard that racial slur before, so I guess
this has been an educational process too.
I want to respond to a few of the statements you just heard. First
and foremost... if, because I favor recognition, I would be in physical
danger... then Masonry does not exist here anymore. Second... anyone
who would leave Masonry, because Prince Hall Masonry is granted
recognition, is a Mason in title only. Its lesson's are obviously not
in their hearts. We may lose a large number of members if the
resolution passes. So mote it be. Let them trade their aprons for
white sheets with hoods. We are better off without them.
There are those who are livid with me right now. They are thinking,
"How dare he say that!" or "Saying things like that is a Masonic
offense!" or "He should remember his obligation!" My response is
this... If speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular, is a Masonic
offense, I am guilty and you should expel me because I am going to
continue speaking these truths until we do the right thing.
My dear brethren... We are men, but more than that we are Masons, but
more than that we are the creation of the Great Architect Of The
Universe. Let us not sully his creation by letting it be associated
with evil actions or beliefs. Have the courage to STAND UP and say you
will do what is right. STAND UP and say you will no longer allow the
order to be used to perpetuate racism. STAND UP and announce that we
believe in the brotherhood of ALL men. But most importantly, remember
the trowel you were presented with at your raising... remember what it
teaches us... and then stand up and vote that Prince Hall Masonry is
now, and always has been, a legitimate branch of Masonry that the Grand
Lodge of Alabama should grant full fraternal recognition to.
Bro. Harris and some of his brothers have established a web-site with more information on this
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