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Black Knowledges/Black StrugglesEssays in Critical Epistemology$
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Jason R. Ambroise and Sabine Broeck

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381724

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381724.001.0001

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Respectability and Representation: Black Freemasonry, Race, and Early Free Black Leadership1

Respectability and Representation: Black Freemasonry, Race, and Early Free Black Leadership1

(p.44) 3 Respectability and Representation: Black Freemasonry, Race, and Early Free Black Leadership1
Black Knowledges/Black Struggles

Chernoh M. Sesay

Liverpool University Press

This chapter traces the discourses of African Lodge No. 459, the first Black Masonic lodge in the US. It argues that as part of the ‘first generation of Black leadership’ in the post American-Revolution US republic, Black Freemasons took up a ‘paradoxical and pivotal epistemological question’: how Black Americans should argue ‘not just for freedom but also their humanity’. The chapter illustrates how this question was framed by the denial of ‘equal’ incorporation of Black Americans as both ‘free’ members and ‘full’ citizens of the post American-Revolutionary US republic and by the correlated exclusion of early Black Freemasons from an already established and mainstream tradition of ‘White’ US Freemasonry. It shows how this founding generation of Black Freemasons were compelled to challenge not only these institutional exclusions, but also the correlated epistemic dehumanizations/exclusions derived from the dominant religio-secular narratives of the Western/US Enlightenment. It reveals the way this formative generation borrowed from, adapted, and/or re-imagined these dominant religio-secular narratives on behalf of both their ‘public culture’ struggles/mobilizations against their population's enslavement and overall subjugation/condemnation during the post-Revolutionary period, as well as within their related ‘private’ struggles/mobilizations against the already-established tradition of ‘White’ US Freemasonry.

Keywords:   Black Masonic lodge, Black Freemasons, Black Freemasonry, freedom, humanity, Black leadership

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