Prince Hall: the origins of the Back-to-Africa Movement and black Freemasonry

Prince Hall: the origins of the Back-to-Africa Movement and black Freemasonry

Andrey A. Shumakov
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This work examines in detail the biography and ideological and political views of Prince Hall, one of the most authoritative and at the same time one of the most mysterious representatives of the black rights movement in the United States. In the course of the analysis, the author dwells in detail on the circumstances of the formation of his socio-political philosophy. He comes to an unambiguous conclusion that it is impossible to attribute the theoretical views of this public figure either to black nationalism or to Pan-Africanism. At the same time, the author acknowledges that the views of the Grand Master of the African Lodge have a number of similarities with both of these ideologies. In particular, Prince Hall adhered to the concept of Ethiopianism and was among the first to put forward the idea of compensating African Americans for the years of slavery and return to the Black Continent. This certainly makes him related to such well-known ideologists of black nationalism as Martin Robison Delany, Henry McNeal Turner, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X. But unlike those listed above, Hall remained a staunch egalitarian, a patriot, and an opponent of violent methods of struggle until the very end of his life, which contradicts this doctrine. In addition, this personage was at the origins of the repatriation movement and black Freemasonry, which earned him his great fame. The great contribution of Prince Hall to the cause of struggle against slavery as well as his place among the first and foremost abolitionists has never been questioned by researchers. At the same time, it had to be pointed out the significant degree of mythologization of the image of the Great Master and his biography which still causes a lot of controversy not only in the academic but also in the political and public community. That is why the work provides a number of versions and interpretations of the “well-known facts” of Hall’s biography. The author exposes them to a detailed critical analysis. In Russian historical science, this study is the first work to offer a critical scholarly interpretation of the biography of Prince Hall, the founder of black Freemasonry and the Back-to-Africa Movement. A number of sources are introduced into scientific circulation for the first time.
Andrey A. Shumakov
Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities
Tula Branch of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Tula, Russia
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Prince Hall, Back-to-Africa Movement, Prince Hall’s Grand Lodge, black nationalism, pan-Africanism, abolitionism, Ethiopianism, black Freemasonry
For citation:
Shumakov, A. “Prince Hall: the origins of the Back-to-Africa Movement and black Freemasonry.” Historia Provinciae – the Journal of Regional History, vol. 5, no. 2 (2021): 433–58,

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