On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and 14 men of color were made masons in Lodge #441 of the Irish Registry attached to the 38th British Foot Infantry at Castle William Island in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. It marked the first time that Black men were made masons in America.
About a year later, since the conflict between England and America had commenced, the British Foot Infantry left Boston, along with its lodge, leaving Prince Hall and his associates without a lodge. Before the lodge left, Worshipful Master Batt, gave them a “permit” to meet as a lodge and bury their dead in manner and form. This permit, however, did not allow them to do any “masonic work” or to take in any new members.
Under it, African Lodge was organized on July 3, 1776, with Prince Hall as the worshipful master. It wasn’t long before this lodge received an additional “permit” from Provincial Grand Master John Rowe to walk in procession on St. John’s Day.
On March 2, 1784, African Lodge #1 petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, the Premier or Mother Grand Lodge of the world, for a warrant (or charter), to organize a regular masonic lodge, with all the rights and privileges thereunto prescribed.
The Grand Lodge of England issued a charter on September 29, 1784 to African Lodge #459, the first lodge comprised of Black men in America.
African Lodge #459 grew and prospered to such a degree that Worshipful Master Prince Hall was appointed a Provincial Grand Master in 1791, and out of this grew the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge.
In 1797 Worshipful Master Prince Hall organized a lodge in Philadelphia and one in Rhode Island. These lodges were designated to work under the charter of African Lodge #459.
In December 1808, one year after the death of Worshipful Prince Hall, African Lodge #459 (Boston), African Lodge #459 (Philadelphia) and Hiram Lodge #3 (Providence) met in a general assembly of the craft and organized African Grand Lodge (sometime referred to as African Grand Lodge #1).
In 1847, out of respect for their founding father and first Worshipful Master, Prince Hall, they changed their name to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the name it carries today. In 1848 Union Lodge #2, Rising Sons of St. John #3 and Celestial Lodge #4 became the first lodges organized under the name Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
From these beginnings, there now are some 5,000 lodges and 47 grand lodges who trace their lineage to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.
Honorable Brother Jeffery M. Coaston, is the 72nd Most Worshipful Grand Master of Prince Hall masons for Massachusetts, and carries on the tradition started by Worshipful Master Prince Hall over 200 years ago.