The Masonic fraternity was attractive to some free blacks like Prince Hall because freemasonry was founded upon ideals of liberty, equality and peace.
Prior to the American Revolutionary War, Prince Hall and fourteen other free black men petitioned for admittance to St. John Lodge in Boston. They were turned down. Having been rejected by the Freemasons in Boston, Prince Hall and 14 others sought and were initiated into the Masonry by members of Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland on March 6, 1775. The military lodge was attached to the 38th Foot (renamed "The 1st Staffordshire Regiment") in 1782. The Lodge was attached to the British forces stationed in Boston.
When the military lodges left the area, they were given the authority to meet as a lodge, take part in the Masonic procession on St. John’s Day, and bury their dead with Masonic rites but could not confer Masonic degrees or perform any other essential functions of a fully operating Lodge.
Hall and other freedmen founded African Lodge No. 1. Other African Americans included Cyrus Johnston, Bueston Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Horward, and Richard Titley, all of whom apparently were free by birth.
Unable to create a charter, they applied to the Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Master of the Mother Grand Lodge of England, H. R. H. The Duke of Cumberland issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1 later renamed African Lodge no. 459, September 20, 1784. The lodge was the country's first African Masonic lodge.
Due to the African Lodge's popularity and Prince Hall's leadership, the Grand Lodge of England made Hall a Provincial Grand Master on January 27, 1791.
On June 26, 1827 African Grand Lodge notified the world that it was "free and independent of any lodge from this day.
After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, many more Black men became interested in Freemasonry.
Prince Hall Freemasonry is a branch of North American Freemasonry founded by Prince Hall in the 18th century and composed predominantly of African Americans.
Source: Wesley, Charles H. Prince Hall: Life and Legacy. Philadelphia: Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, and Washington: United Supreme Council, Prince Hall Affiliation, 1977.