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Black History

Early Black Masonry and Benevolent Societies in Shreveport
by Professor Willie Burton-Southern University


            The development of black Masonic groups in Shreveport after the civil war originated out of the needs for them to maintain a level of cohesiveness, self help, and benevolence. Negro Masonry owes its beginning to Prince Halls, who founded African Lodge No. 1 in 1776, after he was denied membership in an American lodge because he was black. Blacks in Shreveport formed mutual aid or benevolent societies and Masonic groups not only for fraternal reasons, but also to provide for some of the needs of the members. Dues and fees were collected, sometimes invested, to pay sick benefits, properly bury their dead, care for the families of deceased members, and sometimes, educational needs.

        Shreveport had two general Masonic orders, the Prince Hall Masons and the Scottish Rite Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Many lodge orders were organized within these two groups, as were related women auxiliaries. Other fraternal orders included the Elks, the Odd fellows, and later the Greek social sororities and fraternities.

        The local Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons chapter was started around the 1920s. Some of the founders included Mr. Lafayette Thomas (one of the first faculty members of Central Colored High School), William A. Brown, Harvey M. Johnson, and Professor J.W. Reddix (principal of Mt. Zion Elementary School).

        Three lodges existed before World War II in the Prince Hall order. They were the Mt. Lebanon, Lilly, and the Zion Hill lodges. After the war, the lodges increased to eight. Prince Hall’s sister organization is the Order of the Easter Star.

        The Scottish Rite A.F. & A.M. Masonic Order was organized in 1869 in Washington D.C. One local order of this Masonic group was believed to have been started by Grover C. Williams who served as M.P. Sovereign Grand Commander from 1925-26 and 1926-28. However, the local Universal Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. was organized on March 28, 1922 and incorporated by Louisiana on April 4. The Star of Hope Grand Chapter O.E.S. was incorporated the same month. James Cornelius was the first Grand Master of the Universal Grand Lodge.

        Investments, assessments, and dues provided many necessary funds for educational scholarships, buildings, civic projects, and charities. The fraternal order also owned and operated insurance endowments or departments organized to take care of the needs of members and their families.








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