If you have only one book in your library about Prince Hall Freemasonry, this is the book you should have.
The magazines in this collection mark the start of a long-term project of the Phylaxis Society to undo the damage done by William H. Grimshaw in his book published in 1903, The Official History of Freemasonry Among the Colored People of North America. For half a century, Grimshaw’s book was the only one that spoke of the early life of Prince Hall, and there appears to be a good reason for it: Grimshaw’s biography of Prince Hall was largely made up, his personal invention, a product of his imagination, and a century later, historians are still looking for sources to confirm what Grimshaw said about the life of Prince Hall and cannot find them. Decades after Grimshaw’s book, the so-call story of Prince Hall has been repeated, book after book, author after author, until it has become so firmly ingrained into Prince Hall masonic lore, that more than a century later, it still persuades.
A crack in Grimshaw’s story occurred in 1977 with the publication of a book by Charles H. Wesley, Prince Hall: Life and Legacy. Wesley, a Prince Hall mason and a reputable historian, made it clear that William Grimshaw had numerous errors and inaccuracies in his story, some of which were later shown to have been outright lies. Concurrently with Wesley’s book, George Draffen,
a mason out of Scotland, submitted a paper for publication in Ars Quatour Coronatum (transactions of Lodge Quatour Coronatum Number 2076) which was published inThe Phylaxis magazine in the first quarter of 1978. Draffen’s conclusions were very similar to those of Wesley.
Many other articles in this collection are worthy of the cost of the collection. An article by Charles Wesley, “Jonathan Davis and the Rise of Black Fraternal Organizations,” will be of interest to aspiring historians. In telling his story, Wesley provides an amazing tutorial on his methods of research and investigation. There is also an interview of Dr. Wesley that further reveals his philosophy and methods of historical research. Then there is the landmark article by George Draffen that brings attention to the inaccuracies of William Grimshaw’s book.