Written by Bro. John L. Hairston, Author
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."
About a year and a half ago I obtained a microfilmed copy of the Records of African Lodge of Boston. Up until that point, I was a committed proponent of the propagated and accepted history of the origins of the Prince Hall Affiliation. I defended that history against all challenges and was dedicated to finding all sources that would fortify the narrative as I had received it. That all changed when I began to see first hand the records of African Lodge for myself.
The initial impact of the revealtion found in the records was startling. We had been taught and propagated an incorrect history. I began to retrack the books that I had read on Prince Hall history, hoping to find that there was some mention of these new found facts in them that I may have missed. Some of the most renowned and revered historians of Prince Hall Affiliation perpetuated a revision of the true history of Prince Hall and African Lodge. The more questions I asked and the more I delved into the records, I was convinced that the dilemma of the Prince Hall history was the fact that the writers of our history did not have access to or had viewed the records of African Lodge.
Then, an even more elaborate understanding began to dawn on me; the present form of Prince Hall history is a creature of circumstance, a creation born of well intentioned, but questionable application of historical recording. With predominantly white chartered Lodges and Grand Jurisdictions questioning and challenging Prince Hall history and legitimacy, the forfathers of this generation of Prince Hall historians chose to prepetuate the engineered history of Joshua Woodlin, Grimshaw and other histories, than to face certain truths that the actual testimony of the members of African Lodge wrote by their own hands, and the truthful implications of those records.
Even the last generation of Prince Hall historians were confronted with the facts head on, and chose to disregard the most obvious response to accusations regarding the origins of African Lodge, which was to research those accusations. Instead, our forefathers chose to throw out the facts based on the messengers, and this was a critical error.
Prince Hall history now stands at a crossroad. Either it will choose to remain a product of fabrications and myths that raise more questions than answers, or it will come into the light of truth and make the corrections necessary to embrace a greater understanding of the condictions and circumstances that Prince Hall and the members of African Lodge faced and overcame for the present Prince Hall Affiliation to enjoy the benefits of Masonic life and privileges.
I have experienced first-hand the condition and culture that misinformation and incorrect history has perpetrated on the Prince Hall family. In the research, outreach and compilation of this work, there has been such a great reluctance to come to terms with indisputable realities of the accepted version of history, and it is very simple, it's just not true.
I am aware of the ground I tread. Make no mistake about it. But, I am resolved to honor my obligation as a historian and researcher. I will no longer aid in fortifying the dilemma, I willfully choose to make my sincere contribution to the resolution.
Historians and researcher are the watchmen on the tower, and I refuse to let it be said that on my watch that the facts were found and I hid them to protect what needed no protection, and that is the legitimacy of the Prince Hall Affiliation.
Landmarks of our Fathers: A Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1 is not a challenge to the legitimacy of the Prince Hall Affiliation, but rather a direct confrontation to the removal of those ancient landmarks, one of which is our history and our story.