Tag Archives: Sociology

Middle-class Blacks in a White Society

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America by William Alan Muraskin.

WIlliam Alan Muraskin Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society

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]


The Rites of Passage

The Rites of Passage: a classic study of cultural celebrations by Arnold van Gennep, a paperback from University of Chicago Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Arnold van Gennep The Rites of Passage from University of Chicago Press

“Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ but are universal in function. Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957) was the first anthropologist to note the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional stages in man’s life, and his phrase for these, ‘the rites of passage,’ has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.” — back cover