Prince Hall (1735?-1807)

    Contributing Editor:
    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 oratory.

    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 the pieces?

    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.

    Original Audience

    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, 1979, passim.