Prince Hall Masons of Louisiana Records Open for Research

Members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1950s.

Members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1950s.

The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the opening of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana Records (1857-2002). It is always an exciting time at the Center when the processing department finishes a large preservation and access project since the work can take months, if not years, to complete. Amistad received the initial deposit of the Grand Lodge’s records in 2008 with additional materials retrieved from the temple building in Baton Rouge in 2012 and 2013. The project got underway in November 2012 and the Center was pleased to assist the Grand Lodge to celebrate its 150th anniversary highlighting the accomplishments of the organization and its members through selections from the collection compiled for exhibition in January 2013. The exhibition, “Unity and Brotherly Love: 150 Years of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free & Accepted Masons of Louisiana,” showcased the work of the fraternal organization’s membership for the betterment of African Americans in Louisiana and beyond.

First Grand Master John Parsons, undated

First Grand Master John Parsons, undated

During the 1840s, members of St. James A.M.E. Church in New Orleans petitioned to organize a Masonic lodge. This request was approved and, in 1849, the Richmond Lodge No. 4 in New Orleans was established, first under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania and then later under Ohio. By 1863, New Orleans established an additional two lodges (Stringer No. 11 and Parsons No. 18), enabling the trio to form a Grand Lodge. This Grand Lodge of Louisiana, named Eureka in order to differentiate itself from white membership lodges, was established on January 5, 1863, at the hall of Richmond Lodge No. 4 between Customhouse and Bienville streets. The first Grand Master was John Parsons, a leading political figure in New Orleans. In 1944, the act of incorporation for the Eureka Grand Lodge was amended and the organization was renamed—the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana.

The records of the Louisiana Grand Lodge are a rich source of primary documentation about the history of African American freemasonry in Louisiana and throughout the United States, the period of post-Civil War Reconstruction, the long civil rights movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the modern civil rights movement. The records encompass 68 linear feet of materials that illuminate the internal workings of the Grand Lodge and the extent of the local and national Masonic network, including African American businesses and philanthropy; community, economic and educational activism; partnerships with civil rights organizations; and experiences with discrimination and segregation.
The finding aid to the collection can be found in Amistad’s online finding aid database. Researchers interested in viewing the collection are encouraged to contact the Center’s Reference Services at via phone at 504.862.3222 or via email at reference@amistadresearchcenter.org.


Posted by Laura Thomson.

(Images from the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana Records. May not be reproduced without permission.)

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