Pike's Racism

"I took my obligations from white men, not from negroes.
When I have to accept negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it."
Albert Pike - 1875

Failing to achieve success with the foolish arguments that Freemasonry is hiding some great secret - and Albert Pike said so in one of the most widely available books of the past 100 years, some will then try to discredit him with the above quote. It is, of course, just another ruse. Pike was considered by his contemporaries as being one of the least racially biased individuals of his time. During his military service in the US Civil War, he chose to lead only native Indian troops - something others eschewed because of the perception that Indians were 'sub-human'. His position on slavery is sometimes assumed because of his service in the Confederacy yet that assumption reflects ignorance of the beliefs of a well-read gentleman living in the South and feeling an obligation to support 'his' country.

We also find it strangely curious that some - like "St. John the Sublime" of the "Freemasonry Watch" website - have regularly used Pike's quote above to prove his racism while, simultaneously, arguing for separation of immigrants of other races from 'true' citizens (in his case, of Canada). See here for but one example of how anti-Masons find the speck in another's eye while ignoring the plank in their own.

But, as often is the case, one sentence taken out of context can be misleading at best. In fact, that quote - appearing in a book published by the anti-Masonic "Charles T. Powner Co." Delmar D. Darrah, a Past Grand Master of Illinois included it in his work, "The History and Evolution of Freemasonry" published in 1954. Immediately preceding that sentence, however, appears the following: 

"The status of Negro Masonry in this country was perhaps never better defined than it was by Albert Pike in 1875, when he said"

"Prince Hall Lodge was as regular a Lodge as any Lodge created by competent authority. It had a perfect right to establish other Lodges and make itself a Mother Lodge." 

It is noted that Darrah's quotation of Pike refers to the state of Masonic relations between Prince Hall Masonry and "Mainstream" Masonry over 175 years ago - at the time when social separation of the races was both accepted and expected. Those who cite the Pike quote fail to acknowledge that in the United States even a full century later, there were race riots and discrimination was rampant. Children were being bussed to schools, major cities such as Boston were in open revolt with car bombings of those reserve and guard military forces which were called in to assist in keeping peace, and barely 20 years earlier, the rest rooms in the United States Supreme Court were segregated. Is it any wonder that a gentleman of Pike's time would find it disagreeable and improper to 'mingle' as an equal with "Negroes" who, even to today, are depicted as "mud people". 

Suffice it to say, the argument of Pike's racism is but a ruse. The quotation involved Prince Hall Freemasonry (see our page on Racism for more). Despite this statement, however, Pike gave a complete copy of the Scottish Rite rituals to Prince Hall leaders in order to assist them in the formation of a parallel organization.

All attempts to legitimately connect Pike, the man, to the Ku Klux Klan have failed and it remains only for anti-Masons to use this quote as but one more way to bleat about the imagined evils of Freemasonry.

Bro. Mike Wells of Illinois recently posted the entire quote relative to Pike on the alt.freemasonry newsgroup. He commented that Darrah was favorable to recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry and noted the following: 

"...Pike's letter (if the letter is not fraudulent) of 13 September 1875 is included on pg 214-15 by Upton. It seems Darrah was quite inventive in attributing to Pike, having deleted about five paragraphs when cobbling together the alleged quote. That being the case, Darrah has done a disservice to Freemasonry. Little known fact: Darrah's will required that all his personal papers were to be burned unread, and they were."


Source: "Negro Masonry Being a Critical Examination of Objections to the Legitimacy of the Masonry Existing Among the Negroes of America". William H. Upton: The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1902. (264 pgs)



Views of General ALBERT PIKE, Sovereign Grand Commander A. & A. Scottish Rite.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., 13th September, 1875.

MY DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER.-I can see as plainly as you that the negro question is going to make trouble. There are plenty of regular  negro Masons and negro lodges in South America and the West Indies, and our folks only stave off the question by saying that negro Masons here are clandestine. Prince Hall Lodge was as regular a Lodge as any lodge created by competent authority, and had a perfect right (as other lodge in Europe did) to establish other lodges, making itself a mother Lodge. That's the way the Berlin lodges, Three Globes and Royal York, became Grand Lodges.

The Grand Orient of Hayti is as regular as any other. So is the Grand Orient of the Dominican Republic, which, I dare say, has negroes in it and negro lodges under it.

Again, if the negro lodges are not regular, they can easily get regularized. If our Grand Lodges won't recognize negro lodges, they have the right to go elsewhere. The Grand Lodge can't say to eight or more Masons, black or white, we will not give you a charter because you are negroes, or because you wish to work the Scottish Rite, and you shall not go elsewhere to get one: That latter part is bosh.

Hamburg recognizes the Grand Lodges. Yes, and so the German Grand Lodge Confederation is going to do, and so will the Grand Orient of France before long.

Of course, if negrophily continues to be the religion established by law of your State, there will be before long somewhere a beginning of recognition of negro lodges. Then the Royal {Footnote to pg 214. - This was written before the Grand Orient had dispensed with the requirement of a belief in God.-w. h. u.} 


Arch and Templar bodies of negroes must be taken in, and Masonry go down to their level. Will your plan work? I think not. I think there is no middle ground between rigid exclusion of negroes or recognition and affiliation with the whole mass.

If they are not Masons, how protect them as such or at all? If they are Masons, how deny them affiliation or have two supreme powers in one jurisdiction.

I am not inclined to meddle in the matter. I took my obligations to white men, not to negroes. When I have to accept negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it.

I am interested to keep the Ancient and Accepted Rite uncontaminated, in our country at least, by the leprosy of negro association. Our Supreme Council can defend its jurisdiction, and it is the law-maker. There can not be a lawful body of that Rite in our jurisdiction unless it is created by us.

I am not so sure that, what with immensity of numbers, want of a purpose worth laboring for, general indifference to obligations, pitiful charity and large expenses, fuss, feathers and fandango, big temples and large debts, Masonry is become a great helpless, inert mass that will some day, before long, topple over, and go under. If you wish it should, I think you can hasten the catastrophe by urging a protectorate of the negroes. Better let the thing drift. Apres nous le deluge.

Truly, yours,


Ill. Comp. Josh D. CALDWELL.

LEAR: A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? 

William Shakespeare (15641616), English poet and playwright. King Lear, Act 4, Scene 6.

Last updated December 10, 2003


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Pike's Philosophy
Pike's Racism
Three World Wars
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