The Prince Hall branch of the freemasons is believed to have a great impact on historical aspects of the African American community in the years of Reconstruction. These prominent people enriched the post Civil War history with their devoted attempts to bring the ideas of equality and freedom to reality. The following is a glance at their great deeds and efforts.
One of the prominent black freemasons is Alexander Thomas Augusta, who was born in 1825, Norfolk. He was a physician and surgeon, soldier and Commissioned Officer. After the war Augusta took up an offer with Freedmen’s Bureau: a federal governmentagencyof the United States that provided assistance to the former slavesduring Reconstruction period of the country. He had his own practice in Washington and was teaching at the Howard University. Augusta inspired African American self-help, encouraged ex-slaves to support independent institutions during his years in the agency’s Lincoln Hospital. He “is remembered as a pioneer black surgeon, medical school professor, and practicing physician who persevered against odds early on and obtained a medical school degree and broke racial barriers in the military, both in hospital administration and in medical education”. Augusta was seen by his peers and enemies as a fighter and champion for the Black Americans’ rights. He was a prominent teacher, human rights activist and physician striving for truth and integrity.
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Ebenezer Don Carlos Basset is another African American freemason, who left a significant imprint on the Civil War times. He was not only the first black in the nation’s history occupying a diplomatic position but a great activist and educator. Don Carlos was a Principal of the Institute for Colored Youth (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the oldest African American school of higher education. “He served the Institute with dedication and extraordinary ability”. After the War, Basset was supported by influential republicans for the Post of the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. His credentials as an educator and activist made him a good match for the position. Basset played an important role in external affairs of the United States.
Hiram Rhodes Revels, in turn, was the first African-American U.S. senator and African-American congressman from the state of Mississippi. Before the Civil War, fewer than 1,000 free black Mississippians had access to a basic education. After the war Revels lived in Natchez, Mississippi and was a priest to a big community. In spite of some hesitation with regard to a political arena, he became as alderman and was elected to the state senate. “Although Revels was a Republican, he was anxious not to encourage race friction with white Southerners; he therefore supported legislation that would have restored the power to vote and to hold office to disenfranchised members of the former Confederacy.” At the beginning of his political career, Revels was concerned that his new appointment might interfere with his religious work. He was believed to have moderate and compassionate opinions and following his interest in education joined Education and Labor Committee. The diplomat truly believed that “education and Christian morality instead of campaigns for equal rights would lead faster to African American’s equality”. Hiram Rhodes was a prominent African American politician and educator who advocated discrimination.
Lastly, Joseph Rainey was born into slavery and freed by his father in 1840s. He was the first the longest-serving African American during the agitated period of Reconstruction. Like many others African American freemasons, Rainey worked in the Committee on Freedmen’s Affairs. In 1971, he delivered his first speech where he argued for the use of federal troops to protect southern blacks from the recently organized Ku Klux Klan. Rainey was a conservative black leader of the Civil War era. He supported the implementation of “a poll tax as a requirement for voting if the revenues were devoted to public education. He also put an effort to legalize the collection of debts occurred before the Civil War as well as debts incurred in the purchase of slaves. Neither measure passed in the 1868 state constitution. In 1870 Georgetown voters elected Rainey to the state senate, where he became chair of the Finance Committee. He attended the 1869 State Labor Convention, which lobbied the General Assembly for pro-labor legislation to protect African American workers”. Joseph Rainey was a craftsman of civil-rights legislation protecting not only the interests of African Americans but also other minorities of California.
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As a final point, black freemasons’ contribution to the history of African American historical chapter as well as the nation’s development on the whole is more than evident. The history of the United States in the post-civil war era would not have been the same without these great minds and their inspiration.