Prince Hall (1735?-1807)
William H. Robinson
Classroom Issues and Strategies
I have encountered no insurmountable problems in teaching Hall except
to point out to students the differences (which may well have been "diplomatic")
between Hall's almost illiterate manuscripts that were designed to be published
and several of his other more acceptably normal manuscripts.
Although Hall wrote and published correspondence and wrote and co-signed
almost a dozen petitions, I include him among examples of early American
Frequently asked student questions: In the two known Masonic "charges"
that Hall published (1792 and 1797), where did he find the courage to be
so outspoken? Could he find a presumably white Boston printer to publish
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
Hall was concerned with many aspects of racial uplift for black America
and wrote about them all.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
As noted above, in class I note how Hall's nearly illiterate petitions,
requiring an editor's "corrective" attention, may have been deliberately
deferential. Hall was aware that not many white printers or publishers
would readily publish manuscripts written by obviously literate blacks.
I point out the real differences in tone and general deference between
Hall's petitions designed for white Boston legislators and other prominent
whites, and the tone and racial outspokenness in his "charges,"
formal annual addresses to his fellow black Masons.
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
Although no black writer contemporary with Hall was so widely concerned
with racial uplift, his work might be compared with Phillis
Wheatley's letters, which are also concerned with black uplift and
even "proper" Bostonian antislavery protest.
Questions for Reading and Discussion/Approaches to Writing
I have asked students to compare the differences in tone and understanding
of biblical injunctions between Jupiter
Hammon and Prince Hall.
Crawford, Charles. Prince Hall and His Followers. New York: The
Crisis, 1914, 33.
Kaplan, Sidney. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution.
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1973, 181-92.
Walker, Joseph. Black Squares and Compass. Richmond, Va.: Macon,