|MW Jason A. Jefcoat, Grand Master of the|
Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM
The historical segregation between the predominantly white "mainstream" Masons and African-American Prince Hall grand lodges in the American South continues to mosey its way to the well-deserved tar pits. While this post is a little less timely than it probably should have been, I wanted to wait a few more days before circulating it.
|Mississippi's "mainstream" and Prince Hall Scottish Rite Masons |
were represented at the Scottish Rite in Memphis last week.
The world did not stop spinning on its axis.
The news from last week about the Memphis (TN) Valley of the Scottish Rite and their Prince Hall Affiliated counterparts cooperating wasn't just confined to Tennessee's Masons. As reported, Mississippi had representatives from their own Scottish Rite bodies - "mainstream" and Prince Hall - attending as well. But there's a little more to the story out of Mississippi.
Back on September 27th, Mississippi's Grand Master, MW Jason A. Jefcoat posted the following message on the Grand Lodge of Mississippi's official Facebook page:
Not long after I was installed as your Grand Master I received an invitation and a request from the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM, Prince Hall Affiliated for a meeting to discuss the possibility of some type of mutual recognition. As your newly installed Grand Master, with what I still consider an extremely important agenda and a very full schedule, I dismissed this invitation.
Five months later while I was representing our State at the Scottish Rite Biennial Session, I was given the opportunity to meet Brothers from all over the world. In some of these conversations the topic of Prince Hall Masons was discussed. I was made aware of some future events concerning Prince Hall Masonry and our counterparts in the Southeastern Masonic Conference. I talked with Grand Masters whose States have recognized Prince Hall Masons for decades, and I talked to Grand Master whose States are voting on this topic in the very near future. There was a lot of talking, but for once in my life I kept my mouth shut and listened.
Because I know how strongly some of our Brothers feel about this topic, I took my burden to God. I considered the consequences and benefits of what some type of recognition would mean for Mississippi, and I asked Him for help.
Within 24 hours I received a phone call from Grand Master Most Worshipful Brother Maurice Lucas, Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge, Prince Hall Affiliate. I immediately accepted his invitation for lunch the next week. The following is a result of our meeting. The request has been turned over to the Fraternal Relations Committee, and will be presented for a vote at our next Annual Communication.
|MW Maurice F. Lucas, Sr.|
Grand Master of Stringer GL of Mississippi (PHA)
|Click image to enlarge|
What this all means to the uninitiated or the frustrated is that Mississippi's Prince Hall (PHA) Masons will be voting on whether or not proceed with this official request at THEIR next annual communication. THEN the Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM will take up the question. Presuming both pass the votes, THEN the two grand lodges will officially meet to hammer out details. THEN the two grand lodges will have to both ratify the agreements. And all of this presupposes that both bodies of historically entrenched Masons even agree to undertake any of this in the first place.
All of this creaky back and forth seemed normal in the 18th and 19th centuries when these types of processes were worked out. Unfortunately, when it comes to potentially controversial topics like anything involving race and the American South, the rest of the world can't refrain from hurling accusations and insults south of the Mason-Dixon Line. This isn't an apologia for this longstanding wall between Freemasons there, but let's give fair-minded Masons the proper opportunity to finally solve it at long last. If they do, this map may be changing again sooner than later.
*Just a note for clarity: since after the Civil War, Prince Hall Freemasonry has long been most active and widespread in the American South. If you don't know the history of the National Compact era and the battles between PHA (Prince Hall Affiliated) grand lodges versus the former Compact-era PHO (Prince Hall Origin) grand lodges, this blog can't really do that justice in a short space. If you read online arguments between Masons on both sides, you might see them calling each other "three-letter" or "four-letter" Masons (F&AM vs the Compact's AF&AM). In some states, the early- to mid-20th century attempt to standardize all PHA grand lodge names by changing to "The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of [your state here], F&AM" was frustrated by legal counter-claims over corporate entity names on a state by state basis.
Consequently, Mississippi's PHA grand lodge is officially named the "Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM." The Compact-era's PHO grand lodge got to the courthouse first, so it snagged the simpler name .
For related reasons Florida's ungainly regular, recognized PHA name is the "Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity F&AM PHA Florida & Belize, Central America Jurisdiction, Inc."