Black Freemasonry and its Niagara connection topic of Sankey Lecture

Little is known about the local history of black Freemasonry, but it’s hoped this year’s Sankey Lecture will encourage new research on the topic.

Brock University’s 10th annual lecture, held Sunday, March 24, will be delivered by Chernoh M. Sesay, Jr., Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Sesay will share his research on the origins of African American Freemasonry.

The first recognized black lodge in the world, African Lodge No. 459, was founded by Prince Hall, a former slave who led black abolitionists in Massachusetts in the 18th century.

Sesay’s lecture will explore how the origins of black Freemasonry reveal the complexities of African American leadership, identity and community.

This year’s topic has a local connection, notes event organizer and Associate Professor of History Mike Driedger.

“There was a Prince Hall Lodge or Lodges in the Niagara region, although not much is known about them,” says Driedger. “We hope this year’s lecture, although focused on American subjects, will spark research on local history.”

To help encourage local research, third-year History student Naythan Poulin will give a brief presentation on local resources for Masonic history, including Brock’s Archives and Special Collections, at the Sankey Lecture event. Brock’s Archives and Special Collections is home to the Masonic Book Collection, which consists of more than 1,200 works, and is one of largest collection of books on Freemasonry at any Canadian university. Its holdings include the papers of Charles A. Sankey, former Chancellor of Brock University.

The Sankey Lecture Series also hopes to encourage History graduate student researchers interested in studying freemasonry and fraternalism.

The Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, based in Hamilton, has endowed a new award for incoming History Master of Arts students, which will be given out for the first time this September.

The Grand Lodge has collaborated with the Department of History to present the annual Sankey Lectures since 2010.

This year’s lecture will be held Sunday, March 24 at 3 p.m. in Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.

The annual lecture attracts several hundred people from across Ontario and New York state each year to hear researchers speak on the impact of Freemasonry on history and society. Tickets to the event are free but should be reserved in advance.

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