Thursday, February 17, 2011

‘Masonic Week 2011: Blue Friars’

The annual meeting of the Consistory of the Blue Friars was the occasion of the welcoming of its 100th member: Alton Roundtree, a Past Master of Redemption Lodge No. 24 and the inaugural Master of David A. McWillliams, Sr., Research and Education Lodge, both under the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. You more than likely have heard of this brother, as his fame extends far beyond our nation’s capital and across the jurisdictions of Freemasonry. I’ll stand corrected, but I would say he is most celebrated for co-authoring, with Paul Bessel, Out of the Shadows: The Emergence of Prince Hall Freemasonry in America in 2008.

Bro. Alton G. Roundtree,
Blue Friar No. 100
I wonder if there is a single facet of Masonic history that can be told accurately and in a linear narrative, free of byzantine confusions, detours, and expectations of willing suspensions of disbelief, but I doubt that exists. The complicated story of Prince Hall Freemasonry is no exception, which explains the heft of the book Roundtree and Bessel produced. His Blue Friars paper last Friday is titled “The Two Conventions that Changed Freemasonry,” and it recounts the dizzying story of the 19th century rivalry between different Prince Hall grand lodges, vying for establishment, recognition and, naturally, members. Conventions held in 1847 and 1878, and larger-than-life characters like Thornton A. Jackson, figure hugely in the creation of modern day Prince Hall Freemasonry.

I don’t want to give away too much because you should read Out of the Shadows and because this paper will be published, possibly in Heredom.

Grand Abbott S. Brent Morris closed the meeting on a humorous note when, in thanking Roundtree for his presentation, he said “I am shocked – shocked – to find out there were feuds in Prince Hall Masonry, because in our Freemasonry....”

The Society of Blue Friars is a fraternity of Masons who are published authors. Both Morris and Roundtree are Founding Fellows of The Masonic Society.

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