Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America by William Alan Muraskin.
This sociological approach to Prince Hall Freemasonry contains a lot of fascinating data and some even-handed evaluations. The author faults previous studies of the American “black middle class” for actually confining their observations to the black elite. He then makes a convincing case that, for his purposes, members of the Prince Hall Masonic bodies can all be considered “middle class.” While not all middle class blacks would necessarily be Masons, by taking Prince Hall Masons as an identifiable bourgeoisie within American society, Muraskin considerably expands the middle-class black population to be considered in his study.
The historical information alone, while sometimes anecdotal in structure, is of excellent value. Particular attention is devoted to Prince Hall Masonry in California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Georgia. The author very effectively debunks academic misconceptions about Masonry as a primarily rural organization, or as an antiquated society in decline. He outlines both the virtues and ambitions common to Prince Hall Masonic bodies, as well as their special challenges and shortcomings.
As an initiate of the Order myself, I found this book to be a lucid look at the “big picture” of Prince Hall Masonry, from an objective yet sympathetic outside researcher of the subject. [via]