Thursday, May 05, 2016

Alabama Lodge Breaks State's Masonic Color Barrier


A quietly historic event occurred this evening at Shades Valley Lodge No. 829 in Birmingham, Alabama. Brother Ronald King was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. 

No big deal, except perhaps for him, right? Happens every night in a lodge somewhere in the world.

Except that Brother King is the first man of color to be actually be initiated, passed, and raised in a lodge holden under the Grand Lodge of Alabama F&AM.

According to the Shades Valley website, "The lodge was founded in September of 1921 and granted a charter December 1921.  Since its inception, Shades Valley Lodge has been home to many of Birmingham, Alabama’s great men." 

Those great men now include the current members and officers of that lodge for finally breaking the color barrier in one more grand lodge of the Old Confederacy. Shades Valley Lodge was already integrated, with several African American members who already held previous membership in other jurisdictions. But Brother King was the first to be IPR'd. Appropriately, the evening's visitors included Brother Victor Marshall and other members of Atlanta, Georgia's Gate City Lodge No. 2. 

In this day and age it seems bizarrely anachronistic to announce events such as this, but Masonically, these brethren have indeed made an important step forward and shown others that the Earth did not stop turning on its axis, nor was the Moral Law broken in any way. 

Congratulations to Brother King and his lodge brothers.

(H/T to Oscar Alleyne)

76 comments:

  1. Behold, how good and how pleasant it for brethren to dwell together in unity

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    1. Except for our white brothers who are not allowed to enter a black prince hall masonic lodge.

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    2. I do apologize, but the computer entered the "uncle Bob" name...I am a proud 32nd degree master mason member of HE Palmes #917 in Mobile Alabama, and a forth generation mason and member also of Abba Temple of the Shrine.

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    3. Incorrect , I am Cedar Grove 628!

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  2. Will the Scottish and York Rites support this. How will the leaders of the Grand Lodge react. One brother of color in a southern sea of prejudice.

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    1. Well, in Georgia there were some uncomfortable moments, but ultimately Brother Marshall was initiated into the Scottish Rite in Atlanta. You can always tell the pioneers from the arrows in their backs.

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    2. Having lived in Birmingham for 4 years and the vast majority of my life in Alabama, I believe that this new MM will welcomed as a brother in the YR and SR. Some blue lodges would be less welcoming but these are becoming less and less. - Wayne Sirmon, WM Mobile Masonic Lodge No. 40

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    3. I am a member of Birmingham York Rite, Scottish Rite, and Tall Cedars.

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    4. I agree Bro Wayne. There will be some that disagree but it is time we get past the color of a man's skin as being a disqualifier. A good man is a good man.

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    5. The Birmingham Scottish Rite Valley already has an African American member

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    6. Now that the event has been examined closely, there are some additional green sprouts midst the long winter -- the brethren assembled included members from other lodges that have integrated, and some brethren with grand lodge experience. Islands in the sea, one could say. Racist grand masters beware.

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  3. I see at least 5 other Black Brothers in that group. Where did they come from?

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    1. I believe they were mostly, if not all, members of Gate City #2 in Atlanta.

      Anyone who was there who can correct me please feel free to do so.

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    2. One from Pennsylvania, one from Louisiana, one from New York, three from Georgia, and one from Alabama.

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    3. Some of them are actually members of the lodge. They were raised in other jurisdictions and moved there. I know one for sure is.

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    4. Two of the brothers mentioned are from the lodge, but had transferred in from pennsylvania and louisianna

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    5. 2 of the brothers are members of Shades Valley, having transferred from Pennsylvania and Louisianna

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    6. Chris,

      Some of them are from Gate City. There are Brothers from Mississippi and New Orleans who have affiliated with Shades Valley lodge. Another is from New York who is currently going to affiliate with another Georgia lodge.

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  4. SO PROUD of Shades Valley today!

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    1. Yes, overdue but very welcome. Shades Valley if you google it seems to know what a good lodge needs to do -- masonic education, plus service, plus social -- almost a textbook demonstration of good practices. And, thanks to the media exposure, they are protected against the kind of attacks from grand lodge and demented grand masters that we have seen in Georgia and Tennessee, hopefully. A good day for decency.

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    2. I am a mason here in Tennessee and proud to see this. Many people affiliate African Americans to the PHA. Rarely does anyone talk about them joining the Blue Lodge. I think this is great, as I do not see many Grand Lodges accepting PHA for years to come. Personally, if being a mason is in a man's heart, regardless of color, let him come and knock on the door in the west. I would be proud to call any man, of any color, a brother, if his intentions are pure, and being a mason is his desire.

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  6. I am relieved to hear this news. I wonder if other southeastern states will follow suit, but I won't hold my breath. WM TONY Clark-James E. Poe #72 Tennessee

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    1. I personally don't think that skin color should matter at all. There is another reason that many Grand Lodges do not accept PHA, and it isn't race related. Here in my area, there is one PHA lodge, but it is an hour away from here, but there are many Blue Lodges around. The only way to have this change happen, is for African American men who wish to be masons, to petition Blue Lodges and see what happens.

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  7. Just so everyone is informed, this is not actually the first Brother of Color, just the first African American Brother to be raised in Alabama. There are Brothers of almost every race who have been raised in Alabama.

    There are also a few (not many at the moment) African American Brothers who have transferred into Alabama lodges, and some of those are active in the local YR & SR.

    Alabama has definitely been seeing the tides of change.

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  8. The SR Valley of Birmingham took a transfer from an African American Brother some time back. I believe he is also a member of Shades Valley Lodge (please correct me if I'm wrong). Bro. King is the first I know of to be raised but not the first black Brother.

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  9. The Lodge I belong to Village Lodge 315 Miami Shores FL Under Jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of Florida is about 355 of active members black. Our Worshiper-able Master is Black and many Latino members. It is not the color of a Mason skin but what is in his heart

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    1. Exactly brother! We all need to be the example. Break the color barriers and accept each other as brothers under fatherhood of God.

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  10. I honestly can't say this is a good thing I will say it's horrible that in this day and age and especially masonry that men are separated by color or sexual preference it's so sad I just thank God that in new York we are all brothers no matter what do Alabama should be ashamed of them selves sorry just how I feel

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    1. Baby steps sometimes are the best. At least some of us are willing to help the change. And before you decide which direction to start throwing stones, just keep in mind that both sides of the "coin" here in Alabama have the same hangups about mixing (meaning PH does not recognize F&AM and F&AM does not recognize PH). Maybe one day those hangups will be a thing of the past. But regardless the way things stand now it is very difficult to start change when one brother can make a decision for the entire lodge when accepting or rejecting a potential candidate (one blackball rejects), especially when he can do so in secret without any accountability for his vote.

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    2. What does this post mean? It is hard to follow. Are you saying that Alabama should be ashamed because they raised an African American, but you are proud of New York? I'm sorry, but I don't understand.

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    3. It is a step brother. I am an Indiana native, but was regularly initiated, passed and raised in Tennessee. Some of the states in the Southeast are hesitant to change on some issues, because this is the bible belt of the nation. That said, changing this, and allowing men of color is a huge start. In a time where the world is divided by race seemingly, let's have a place where men can come together, as brothers, and not see color, but a man's character. As I said in another post...be the example.

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    4. I agree that the color of ones skin has nothing to do with the character of ones heart! However sexual orientation is a whole different discussion and it shouldn't be lumped in with this topic.
      Skin color should not have any relevance on whether a man can be a mason but let us not strip away the moral foundation of masonry or it will cease to exist.

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  11. I can't say that this is a good thing but I will say it's horrible that in this day and age men are separated by color and sexual preference masons are supposed to be United together as brothers on the level Alabama shouldn't be congratulated for something that should have been done from the beginning I'm just so glad in NYC where I hail things are not like this .and to the brothers raised up if you ever travle to ny your always welcome in my lodge. Good bless

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  12. I am member of Village Lodge 315 F&AM Miami Shores FL. Our lodge is about 30% Black, 35% Latino and 35% white of active members. Our WM is black and our senior Deacon is Black and Junior Stewart is Black. It is not the color of his skin but what is in heart where his obligation resides. It is a beautiful thing

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  13. This is wonderful to see. I am the youngest and first brother of a different race to join my lodge. Diversity is critical to the sustainability of Freemasonry. Bro. Shawn Office Grand Lodge F&AM WI

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    1. Congrats brother! With all the division of people and race we see on tv, let's make this a place where men of all races can come together and be brothers. Be a positive light on the world, and show everyone that men who are white, African American, hispanic, etc, can come together, sit and lodge, and it not be about race, but a man'man's character.

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  15. Thanks be to God the Author and Finisher if all things good.

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  16. I know how this goes as I was the first African American raised in my lodge Winter Park #239 in 2006. I applaud the brothers for taking this step.

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  17. Not me, but some additional context here:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/freemasonry/comments/4i4px6/freemasons_for_dummies_alabama_lodge_breaks/d2v6yrw

    "I'm also a member of this lodge.

    Referencing the photo...the brothers of color on the far right (first and second rows) are members of Shades Valley Lodge under dual membership from their mother lodges in Pennsylvania and Louisiana respectively. As my brother glasshole90 mentioned above; we actually broke the color barrier last year by accepting the dual memberships of these brothers within weeks of each other.

    In addition to our honored guests from Gate City Lodge; the brother in the untrimmed, all-white apron (front row, right of center) joined us all the way from New York.

    We were also privileged to have in our company a PGM, as well as several members and leaders of the Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine.

    It was a fantastic night for our lodge.
    "

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    1. Indeed it was,my Brother. We from Gate City were thrilled to have made the journey.

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  18. Is Freemasonry at last going to reach Alabama?

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    1. Why the snarky post? Here we have a positive thing happening in Masonry, and the reply is to insult Alabama Masons? I just don't get it. No offense brother, but as an Alabama Mason, that is insulting to me and I am supposed to be your brother. Just for your clarification, Freemasonry reached Alabama over 200 years ago, but we are not as perfect as you.

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    2. In all fairness to Brother Michael, we haven't been doing well in honoring our past and respecting the idea of diversity that is integral to Masonry. That said, this is a big deal, a real step forward, and something to hope is a sign of the future.

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  20. I am happy for the many spiritual awards coming the way of that lodge in Alabama. Congratulations.

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  21. I understand felling of fellowship. I was the Master of Benjamin FRanklin Lodge # 156 in Pisa, Italy. An American Military Lodge under the Hrand Oriente of Italy. I raised the first black brother in our small but proud Lodge's history.

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    1. I got intrigued about Benjamin Franklin Lodge in Pisa. Just an aside - it seems to be #591, not 156. Did it perhaps get dissolved and then reactivated at a later date? Just curious.

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  22. This post set a record for my blog today. It received more than 20,000 views before 7:30PM. On a normal day, it gets between 2,000 and 6,000.

    I think this story represents a watershed moment. That's even greater than Brother Victor Marshall's raising in Georgia.

    You'd think I had announced the discovery of a real live unicorn.

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    1. W. B. Hodapp: I am not sure about that. When we raised Victor the sitting Grand Master of Alabama who visited our Grand Lodge session seemed far more supporting than our own Grand Master did. But then again, I am prejudiced, since I had the honor of raising Bro. Marshall.

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    2. What I find exciting is that this record views was set by a positive event.

      Many people in Alabama (any across the US) have few friends of different races that might be potential members of the Craft. As our circle of friends increase, so will the range of men who seek light in masonry through mainstream lodges.

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  23. I hope that one day racism and bigotry will be a thing of the past and we will welcome good men into our midst. We should start by not referring our black American brothers as African . They are not African they are Americans, I was born in England and became a citizen of this country in 1997. I am proud to call myself American, there is no such thing as an African, English, Irish American. We are all AMERICANS

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    1. So true, my brother. One day these unfortunate monikers will disappear!

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    2. I hope so..let's open the lodges and let good men of different races become masons. Let it be in their heart, where they desire to be their best, and know that men of other races will be in lodge, but above all, that won't matter, because we will all be one thing, and that is brothers.

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  24. Dr. King lifted some cosmic words from the prophets as he could say, "The lion and the lamb shall lie down together. And every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree. And none shall be afraid. I still believe that we shall overcome!" On this day, I am proud to say the strongest organization of brotherhood known to man has made an unprecedented leap towards the city of brotherhood. I am proud to be a Mason once more! Congratulations to you Birmingham brothers for standing up for truth, Love, and brotherhood... God bless

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  25. Well, masonry came to prominence in an 18th century of great bitterness and sectarian, warfare with a potential for brotherhood which remains to be realized. Some of our not very brotherly brothers who don't have the faintest idea of Masonry have been lecturing all of us on the superiority of their religious views, and the inadequacy of ours. Now rather than being warned about the Devil and the temptations to evils race mixing, we are reminded by an outpost lodge that people can be tempted to be good. Maybe more would-be masons will be tempted to be good,and we will push back into the sewer the pathetic excuses for grand lodge leadership in those states where bigotry is so enjoyed and religious bigotry encouraged. It might be that the temptation to be good is more powerful than the temptation to be evil, espoused by reverend "Grand" Cutlip and his slimy Georgia and Tennessee "grand" cronies. The brethren of Shades Valley have all achieved real lasting grand rank.

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    1. I am not taking part in attacking my GL, but as a Tennessee mason, seeing a man of color raised in a Blue Lodge in the south makes me smile. It is 2016. Let's end the stupid color barriers. Let's be an example, let's be positive in the news. Shown the world that men of all races can come together and be brothers.

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  26. I was privileged to be there last night. The work was perfect. This lodge just redeemed Birmingham from the darkness of the 50s and 60s that I remember as a boy and young man. I was proud to be there when Bro. King, a real gentleman, was raised. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." As Bro. Robert Burns said over 200 years ago, it is coming to be that all men the world o'er will brithers (i.e brothers) be for a' that!

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  27. This is a great moment. Some people talk about PHA and how some Grand Lodges do not accept PHA. That said, he joined the Blue Lodge, and this is great! If it is in a man's heart, than let him knock on the door in the west, regardless of his skin color. Any man who can make those steps, I would be proud to call brother.

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  28. I am proud that Shades Valley Lodge has taken this step. It is sad that some good, upstanding men can be so open minded to a great many things and yet remain woefully closed off when it comes to such things. Good on you!

    Michael Bell St. Andrews Lodge No. 593 Hamilton ON

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  29. I am a master mason in a lodge in the U.K. and find this fascinating. I have never found come across a situation like this in any U.K. lodge. I do however think that Shades Valley Lodge appear to crossed what seems to be a huge milestone in Masonry and congratulate them on having the courage to take the step. All men are created equal, it is just upbringing and culture that makes the difference.

    David Scholes St. Johns Lodge No 2811, Coventry, U.K.

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    1. I am curious with the political situation in the UK if there is a resistance to allowing a muslim to join a lodge there. Where here in the DEEP south in my lodge HE Palmes #917 in Mobile Alabama) we already have raised several brothers of the muslim faith who have moved here from Turkey.
      Bro. Robert J. Martin 32 degree MM

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  30. Hopefully we can Progressively move forward as Brethren.

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  31. Please enlighten me as to the other reasons PHA is not accepted by the Blue Lodge

    Bill Robinson Genesis Lodge No.11 Sicklerville NJ

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    1. Brother Bill,

      The arguments against PHA recognition in the nine remaining states have nothing to do with wording in their obligations or codes, ergo they technically deny there is institutional racism. Every Mason has the right to drop a blackball on any petitioner for any reason, and forbidden from discussing or revealing their vote. Handy.

      Here are some "other" arguments.

      There was, for many years, a definition floating around in Masonic publications (I think by Mackey, but not certain of that) that "freeborn" was supposedly derived from a Roman term that meant "not descended from slaves." Therefore, no black members. In Indiana, it appeared in our State monitor until the 1960s - and yet we passed a rule in like 1870 saying that it was not improper for a black man to receive the degrees of Masonry.

      Now, SOME individual lodges inserted wording into their own local obligation into the list of those who the MM promised not to make a Mason, which included black men. To my knowledge (somebody tell me if I'm wrong), this was never actually in any state's official ritual, but because rituals were overwhelmingly never actually printed by GLs until at least the 1990s and after, it is difficult to verify this.

      Many also claim that the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction forbids two GLs to share the same jurisdiction. That's true, but has been circumvented for centuries by treaties between grand lodges agreeing to share the region (i.e. the GLs of England, Scotland, and Ireland during the colonial period all had lodges around the world, frequently in the same territories, which they agreed to share). So, that contention can be easily solved.

      The South has more Prince Hall Masons than anywhere else in the country, and there are competing groups that claim descent from African Lodge No. 459's original English charter. PHA is overwhelmingly the one with the strongest claim, but PHO (National Compact) makes the case that they are really the organization with an unbroken chain. (I'm only reporting it.) Of course, the simplest solution to that is to hook up with the Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons and be done with it.

      Also, some Prince Hall lodges sometimes hold joint functions like charity programs with irregular, unrecognized pseudo-Masonic groups. So that's another argument...

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    2. (cntd)

      PHA has an institutional fear that if they are recognized, eventually black men will just join the mainstream GLs and PHA will subsequently whither and die. A fair fear. This is sometimes why PHA allows recognition without visitation. (In my GL, I raised three black members in my year as Master, and because of that, the PHA GM immediately ended joint visitation with the GL of Indiana, because as he put it to our GM, my lodge "stole" members from his jurisdiction - even though I explained both obediences to these men beforehand and gave them the choice of where they wanted to go. They all disliked the smell it had of "separate but equal" and wanted to join us.)

      Also, PHA does not usually allow plural memberships.

      PHA GLs often have a resentment that they are expected to appeal to the mainstream GL for recognition, because "historically" the younger GL is expected to petition the older one for recognition first. Not universally true, and bear in mind that a few mainstream GLs have been officially rebuffed by their PHA counterpart when attempts to discuss recognition have been discreetly brought up. And then there are always egos involved.

      So, GLs can claim all kinds of reasons why they don't recognize PHA that have "nothing" to do with race, and they are by the letter of the law correct.

      I have often said that the only way it will happen is for two dedicated GMs on each side to privately pursue the recognition, along with convincing the men in the GL line behind them to agree to follow through, because this process can take years (it took 4-5 in California alone). If everybody isn't on board, all of the work can go up in smoke if the voting members of GL turn down the first attempt. It can sometimes take several years of proposing - on both sides.

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    3. Brother Hodapp, thank you for your response and for your insight. I appreciate your thorough handling of my query. You have given a logical answer to what, I am sure, is an emotionally charged question. It should be said, that as a PHA Mason, I can see the truth in, at the very least, some of what you stated.
      Good and pleasant indeed!
      Thanks again.

      Brother Bill Robinson

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  33. Actually he is not the "first man of color" to be a master mason in Alabama. We have MANY men of Asian, indian, muslim, and all other colors. He is just the first Black man admitted. The reason for this is the BLACK "Prince Hall" masonic lodges that are very active in most Alabama towns. The price hall masonic lodges which do NOT allow any white members was also where black preferred to go to associate with their own brothers. This segregation by CHOICE is also seen in most other fraternal and especially mardi gras associations in Alabama (example, Mobile has a huge BLACK ONLY mardi gras parade every season). I offer this only as an explaination of Alabama's history.
    Bro. Robert J. Martin 32nd degree Master Mason H.E. Palmes Lodges #917 Mobile, Alabama and also member of ABBA Temple Shriners.

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  34. blacks should stay in prince hall i personally will black ball or will not let or sit with in lodge shades valley lodge has always been one for bending grand lodge rules should have charter took away

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    1. Tell me, Mister Thrasher, just what Grand Lodge rule has been bent in this action? I'm sure the rest of the Masonic world is breathless with anticipation of your reply.

      You are a disgrace to the institution, and its lessons have obviously never been comprehended by you. But I'll leave your comment here so the rest of the Masonic community can more easily identify you and make certain to prevent you from sitting in their own lodges.

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    2. "Brother" Thrasher, I too am a Master Mason in the jurisdiction of Alabama, and I do not belong to Shades Valley or any other lodge in the Birmingham area. But I can tell you flat out that there is NO RULE that bars any ethnicity from joining one of our lodge. The only stumbling block is the prejudice shown by misguided bigots masquerading as Masons. I for one do not care what shade of skin a man has. The only thing that matters (outside of acknowledging a belief in Deity) is where his heart is and whether or not his actions prove that heart.

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