African-American Freemasonry In The State of New York 1812-2012
By Ezekiel M. Bey
In the book entitled, “Stellar Theology and Masonic Astrology”, written by Robert H. Brown, the hour glass is described as such:
The hour-glass was one of the sacred astronomical emblems of the Egyptians. Clement of Alexandria, who gives a description of one of their religious processions, informs us that the singer went first, bearing the symbols of music, and that he was followed by the horoscopus, bearing in his hand an hour-glass, as the measure of time, together with a palm-branch, these being the symbols of astrology or astronomy.
My book, The Hour Glass, depicts and explains a period in time (200 years) that has not been clearly recorded in literature as it pertains to Masonry in the State of New York, the great men who contributed to it and the struggles it has endured.
The beginning started on the island of Hispaniola by a revolution initiated by the natives of the island against the French colonial government, which confirmed change and a new genesis. This revolt was known as the Haitian Revolution. The people of this beautiful land endured much pain and suffered much during the age of enslavement in that part of the world, and declared never to live under those conditions again. And so, it gave birth to the greatest revolt in enslavement history.
The Hour Glass throughout the chapters will also capture moments in time when the people in New York were pathfinders in the growth of humanity. It tells a bit about the underground-railroad, churches that assisted in freedom fighting and individuals who have led the way so that our very existence today gives us a sense of pride due to what our ancestors did yesterday. This book tries to lay down a road for one of the greatest Lodges in New York history, Boyer Lodge No. 1, and its origin and undeniable regular existence in Masonic life. The name coming from the second President of Haiti represents liberation and the power to initiate growth and prosperity.
Many men within the fabric of what we call “civilized society,” had to make changes in life’s social environment as well as sacrifices to secure our birth given rights as “humans.” Early America, in particular New York, was a place of exploration among those who migrated here.
Brother Ludwick Hall of Carthaginian Lodge No. 47, District Deputy Grand Master of the second district, (Brooklyn, New York), in his paper, “The Early African Experience in the American Diaspora,” explains:
In the 1500s the geographical area that is now New York State was inhabited by various tribes and nations of indigenous people. The Wappinger, a subdivision of the Algonquin people, occupied the southern part of the state. The rest of the state was occupied by the Seneca, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Cayuga and Oneida Indian Nations. In 1524, the first Europeans to arrive in what was eventually to be the State of New York were on a French ship captained by an Italian seaman, Giovanni da Verrazano. Later, the first settlement of Europeans in New York occurred in 1615 when the Dutch erected a fur trading post at Fort Nassau, near Albany. Fort Nassau was later renamed Fort Orange. Ultimately in 1619, members of the Dutch West India Company settled in what they called New Netherland and later New Amsterdam. Today, the location of that settlement is known as New York County, or Manhattan.
Brother Ludwick continues to teach us that since 1606 the Dutch had participated in the transport of African slaves. By 1619 they were heavily involved in the use of Africans as slaves in their colonies in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and in Southern Africa. So it was no surprise that they were the ones to introduce chattel slavery to North America. In 1619, they introduced chattel slavery to the colonists in Jamestown, Virginia, when in addition to its cargo; a Dutch ship brought the first 20 African chattel slaves to the colony. Seven years later in 1626, unable to entice European laborers to immigrate to its settlement in New Amsterdam, the Dutch introduced chattel slavery to New York when they brought a shipment of 11 enslaved Africans to the colony. Chattel slavery continued in the state for the next 201 years. To their credit, by 1644 the Dutch gradually introduced a form of indentured (slavery) servitude in the colony, which meant many of the slaves could earn their freedom. English rule in New York began with the English invasion of New Amsterdam in 1664. Slavery at that time had become a part of the social structure of not only the colony of New York, but also of the other English colonies that were subsequently established along the Eastern coast of North America. Ultimately, the occupants of the colonies became disenchanted with British rule and on April 19, 1775, after many acts of rebellion, the Revolutionary War against British rule began.
African Americans have fought in every war that the United States has been involved in, including the wars fought in colonial America. At the outset of the Revolutionary War, Africans, both free and enslaved, were prohibited from service in both the Continental Army and the various state militias. But by 1778, with limited progress made, the Continental Congress relented, and changed its policy about the enlistment of blacks in the war effort. Between the onset of that war and its conclusion with the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, there were many Africans, both free and enslaved who fought with the Continental Army and for various state militias. In appreciation of their service during the Revolutionary War, in 1781 the New York State Legislature voted to free (manumit) all African slaves who were residents of the state and fought with either the New York State Militia or the Continental Army. The end of the war also saw many white residents of the state rethinking their positions on slavery.