This letter was submitted by Rosalind Shaw, associate professor emerita, Tufts University.


I am writing in enthusiastic support of the citizen warrant article for the Feb. 22 Select Board meeting proposing that June 24 become Prince Hall Day in Arlington. In proposing this, Beth Melofchik of Arlington's Historic Districts Commission argues for our recognition of a national and international figure with connections to Arlington.

Last week, the Atlantic magazine called Prince Hall a “forgotten Black Founding Father." A contemporary of John Adams, Prince Hall was a famed abolitionist. Through his petitions on abolition, he was also the first American to invoke the Declaration of Independence, with its language of freedom and equality, for a political purpose other than the Revolutionary War. He also founded the first black Masonic Lodge: Boston’s African Lodge, arguably the first black organization in the United States.

In Prince Hall’s day, free people of color in the North were kidnapped into slavery, while angry mobs assaulted people of color and attacked schools that taught black children. Hall used a crucial form of political activism in his day -- petitions -- to argue for the abolition of slavery. He founded a school for black children. And in founding a network of African Masonic Lodges, he created an infrastructure of advocacy and support for African-American communities.

Arlington forms part of Prince Hall’s legacy for two important reasons. First, he delivered a famous Charge to the African Lodge at Menotomy on June 24, 1797, in which he spoke out about anti-black violence and hostility -- a topic that, unfortunately, is all too relevant 224 years afterward. Second, Arlington has the Prince Hall Mystic Cemetery, which is said to be the only remaining African-American Masonic cemetery in the United States.

These are powerful reasons for Arlington to be proud of its Prince Hall connection. It offer wonderful educational opportunities for Arlington’s public schools. Let’s make sure this African-American founding father is remembered, not forgotten!

This letter to the editor was published Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.