On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Whoopie Goldberg wore a sweater with the name “Prince Hall” embroidered on it. She announced on the Wednesday show that many viewers were offended by it. Whoopi said, “I don’t know why (they were offended) but I won’t wear it again.” “I simply bought a sweater from the internet, and I will never wear it again, and that is all I can say. I still don’t know what the connotations are or why people are upset, but I am not going to wear it again, OK? That’s that.”
Were some viewers offended by the name Prince Hall? Were you offended? Sometimes we need to question what we think or think we know. Sometimes we need to do some research – a quick Google search. Perhaps people were offended because Whoopi is not a Mason and only members of Prince Hall Free Masonry are allowed to wear such emblems. I don’t know, but one Mason, Rob D. Singleton II tweeted @Whoopi Goldberg, thank you for Honoring the Prince Hall Affiliation Masons today on the View. As a PHA Mason, I appreciate the exposure you have given the organization on your Platform. There are a few stories. I for one could care less. You were not disrespectful.
According to Wikipedia, Prince Hall was an abolitionist and leader in Boston’s free black community. I would describe him as a Community Activist. He promoted educating black children and supported a Back to Africa movement. Hall was born in Barbados in 1735 or 1738 and died in Boston in 1807.
Prince Hall was the founder of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of Boston, the world’s first lodge of black Freemasonry and the first society in American history devoted to social, political, and economic improvement. Freemasonry was founded upon the ideals of liberty, equality, and peace.
After Hall and 14 other black men petitioned for admittance to all-white Boston St John’s Lodge and were denied entry, they turned to Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1775 and were initiated into masonry. That Lodge was part of the British forces stationed in Boston during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
The black Masons had limited power; they could meet as a lodge, take part in the Masonic procession on St. John’s Day, and bury their dead with Masonic rites but could not confer Masonic degrees or perform any other essential functions of a fully operating Lodge. The Mother Grand Lodge of England, H. R. H. The Duke of Cumberland issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1.
Author and historian James Sidbury said Prince Hall and those who joined him to found Boston’s African Masonic Lodge built a fundamentally new “African” movement on a preexisting institutional foundation. Within that movement, they asserted emotional, mythical, and genealogical links to the continent of Africa and its peoples.
No matter that Prince Hall was a free man in America during that time or any time, there were obstacles and restrictions put upon him that intended to prevent his progress and that of his people. Those restrictions and obstacles may have slowed progress, but they did not deter Hall and many other black men and women from moving forward in their quest to improve the conditions of black Americans. For that, we can be thankful.
And how about the name Prince? I think many black people gave their children royal and military titles as first names to insure that they were respected. I have known people named Lieutenant, Sargent, Prince, Queen, King, Princess, Duke, and more.
In his last published speech, his charge to the African Lodge in June 1797, Hall spoke of mob violence against blacks: “Patience, I say; for were we not possessed of a great measure of it, we could not bear up under the daily insults we meet with, in the streets of Boston, much more on public days of recreation. How, at such times, are we shamefully abused, and that to such a degree, that we may truly be said to carry our lives in our hands, and the arrows of death are flying about our heads….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…”
Black History is American History. The Struggle continues…