January 16, 2009
Prince Hall's Funeral Monument
In honor of Martin Luther King Day and Barack Obama's impending inauguration, I'm posting these photos of Prince Hall's funeral monument at Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Ground.
When I think of Olde Colonial Bostonians, I tend to picture white people wearing wigs and tricorn hats. This is not an accurate image! There were lots of black people as well (probably also wearing wigs and tricorn hats). In fact, more than 1,000 African-Americans from Boston's early years are buried at Copp's Hill, mostly in unmarked graves.
One African American with a well marked grave is Prince Hall (1738 - 1807, but his grave marker says 1748 - 1807). As you can learn on the Web, or if you visit Copp's Hill, Prince Hall was a prominent black citizen of Boston, and probably fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He also was an abolitionist, civil rights activist, and educator.
However, he's most famous for being one of the first black Freemasons in America, and was named Grand Master of the African Grand Lodge of North America (later renamed the Prince Hall Lodge). In 1895, the Masons erected an enormous monument to recognize his contributions. Prince Hall lodges still exist around the world.
How is this folklore? Well, there's a lot of mysterious lore about the Masons - secret conspiracies, the eye in the pyramid on the dollar bill, etc. I think it's pretty exciting that we have an important one buried right here in Boston.