1999 Speech about Prince Hall Recognition
In 1999 Brother Alex Harris addressed the Grand Lodge of Alabama with these noble words:
"Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Grand Wardens, Brethren,
I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to say to you today. There are so many issues that could be addressed regarding recognition of Prince Hall Masonry. Eventually though, the argument always comes back to race. So I decided to acknowledge that fact and to stop trying so hard to avoid it. Some may be offended by the observations I am about to make. Some because they have watched quietly as their beloved Masonry has been used as a front for something they would never be a part of. Others because they will realize I am describing them and they have spent their lives convincing themselves they do not hold those views. And still others, who do not hide the fact they are racist, will be very upset because these statements will threaten the existence of our lodges as "whites only."
Many Masons have told me they could not support this resolution because their lodge will not support it. Others believe in recognition but are honest enough to admit they do not have the courage to stand up in lodge and say so. And still others believe in recognition but they will not support it because they feel Alabama is not ready for it.
Since when are we concerned about whether the population is "ready" to give up something that is blatantly wrong? Is not part of being a Mason having the courage to stand up for what is just and right, regardless of the consequences? Didn't we learn that from the Masonic founding fathers of our country? Of course, Alabama has been desegregated for over thirty years. We're ready. Brethren, this is 1999. The country has been integrated for a generation. The world has been integrated a lot longer than that.
Masons in the rest of the world, and the United States for that matter, can't fathom our refusal to accept Prince Hall Masons. The issue is gaining momentum. So far recognition has been granted, or is being negotiated, in thirty US Jurisdictions, seven Canadian jurisdictions and nine other foreign jurisdictions. The United Grand Lodge of England has recognized Prince Hall Masonry in eighteen jurisdictions. This means that every possible argument against recognition has already been debated and refuted in other jurisdictions and there is not a legitimate Masonic reason to deny recognition to Prince Hall Masonry.
My fear is that one day other jurisdictions will withdraw recognition from Alabama because they believe us to be clandestine since we refuse to recognize the brotherhood of all men. If you think it can't happen, talk to Masons in other jurisdictions. They are discussing it. Will their Grand Lodges take action? I do not know. If they do not address our lack of action then someone, somewhere, will do the same thing we have done here today. They will feel their Grand Lodge is ignoring a vital issue and propose a resolution themselves.
Too many Masons don't want to sit in lodge with blacks. Fine points of Masonry have been perverted to defend racism that would not be tolerated in the rest of society. You do not want to know the statements I have heard since this resolution was proposed. I am going to tell you some of them anyway because they should be heard.
You need to know what Masonry is harboring today. A Past Master told me there are lodges I should not visit because I might not make it out of there. Another Past Master stated that "My grand-children may have to go to school with them but I sure won't sit in lodge with them." He also stated that, if this resolution passes, he and all his sons would be forced to leave Masonry and that we would lose at least half our members. I have been asked "what is going on at your lodge with all this 'nigger' talk." I have been asked if I wanted to sit in lodges with "blue-gums." I have never heard that racial slur before, so I guess this has been an educational process too.I want to respond to a few of the statements you just heard. First and foremost... if, because I favor recognition, I would be in physical danger... then Masonry does not exist here anymore. Second... anyone who would leave Masonry, because Prince Hall Masonry is granted recognition, is a Mason in title only. Its lessons are obviously not in their hearts. We may lose a large number of members if the resolution passes. So mote it be. Let them trade their aprons for white sheets with hoods. We are better off without them.
There are those who are livid with me right now. They are thinking, "How dare he say that!" or "Saying things like that is a Masonic offense!" or "He should remember his obligation!" My response is this... If speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular, is a Masonic offense, I am guilty and you should expel me because I am going to continue speaking these truths until we do the right thing.
My dear brethren... We are men, but more than that we are Masons, but more than that we are the creation of the Great Architect Of The Universe. Let us not sully his creation by letting it be associated with evil actions or beliefs. Have the courage to STAND UP and say you will do what is right. STAND UP and say you will no longer allow the order to be used to perpetuate racism. STAND UP and announce that we believe in the brotherhood of ALL men. But most importantly, remember the trowel you were presented with at your raising... remember what it teaches us... and then stand up and vote that Prince Hall Masonry is now, and always has been, a legitimate branch of Masonry that the Grand Lodge of Alabama should grant full fraternal recognition to."