- Williamson, Harry Albro, 1875-1965
- Call number
- Sc Micro R-3984
- Physical description
- 26 boxes and 14 volumes
- Materials in English
- Preferred Citation
Williamson, Harry A. Papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
- Access to materials
- Advance notice required. Request access to this collection.
The bulk of the Henry Albro Williamson Collection consists of the extensive research materials and published materials documenting Williamson's efforts to legitimize the position of the American Negro in Freemasonry.
The necessary staff and supplies for this collection were made available through a combination of Library, National Endowment for the Humanities, and State of New York grant funds.
Henry Albro Williamson, known as Harry, was born on October 25, 1875 in Plainfield, New Jersey to William Edward and Mary Elizabeth Pauline Williamson. His father was a carpenter by trade; his mother did needlework and later entered the field of nursing. After his father's untimely death in 1880, his mother moved to Oakland, California with Harry to start life anew. There Mrs. Williamson became a practical nurse, a unique occupation at that time in California for a black woman.
Upon reaching adulthood, Williamson went into the paper manufacturing business for a number of years. He also tried his hand at other occupations, and eventually studied and passed the examinations for both the New York Board of Chiropody and the United States Postal Service. He worked at both occupations, finally giving up chiropody. He remained with the Postal Service until his retirement in 1940.
Williamson married his first wife, Laura Julia Moulton, in 1901. They were divorced several years later. His second marriage to Blanche C. Atkins in 1920 lasted for forty years until her death in 1960. Williamson credited Blanche for much of the research, compilation and maintenance of his Masonic records.
In 1904 Williamson joined the brotherhood of Freemasonry, and was initiated, passed and raised in Mount Olive Lodge in Manhattan. It was also at time that he became a diligent student of Masonry and its literature, and embarked on an intensive search for information which would document the "legitimacy" and "subsequent progress" of the American Negro in Freemasonry.
A member in later years of the Grand Lodge of New York (Prince Hall), Williamson held more elected and appointed positions in the Grand Lodge than any other member in its history. Additionally, he served as deputy Grandmaster of Prince Hall Grand Lodge (New York), as well as Grand Lecturer and Grand Historian. He was also Grand Secretary for over thirty years.
Williamson was a prolific writer on the subject of Freemasonry. He published several articles and monographs, among them, Negroes and Freemasonry (1920), The Negro in Masonic Literature (1922), and The Prince Hall Primer (1925). He was editor of the Freemasonry of Brooklyn, New York and an associate editor of the Masonic Quarterly Review which was the official publication of the Grand Lodge. He was also contributing editor of The National Fraternal Review. During his Masonic career, Williamson was an honorary member of numerous lodges; a member of six American and foreign societies and a frequent contributor to black and Caucasian periodicals. Williamson died on January 3, 1965, having been an invalid for several years.
Source of acquisition
Gift of Harry A. Williamson, 1936-1965 (SCM77-55, SCM76-27, SCM77-78)
Processed by D. Carter/ D. Lachatanere on 12 August 1981
4 plaques, Masonic apron and numerous Masonic medals sent to Schomburg Art and Artifacts Division, 1970s.
Several photographs sent to Schomburg Photographs and Print Division, 1970s.
Using the collection
LocationSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY 10037-1801
Access to materialsAdvance notice required. Request access to this collection.
Alternative form available
Also available on 18 reels microfilm.