All About Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities



           The idea of a fraternity is neither a recent nor a unique idea.  The motivation behind what is modernly called fraternity has been around for thousands of years. Derived from the French word for "brotherhood," it is a concept that can be traced as far back as the building of the pyramids of Gaza, when the ancient stone masons formed their own groups to provide a system of support amongst themselves.... Knowing more information about the roots of ancient societies will help to better understand the meaning of fraternities in the modern sense.

          In the early 1700's, the notion of a fraternity took on a different turn, with the re-emergence of the Freemasons. The Freemasons were on the verge of extinction when four lodges from an area around London, England helped to revitalize Masonry into what it is today. Since then, members of the organization known as Masons have played an integral role in both the American and British societies.
          In the late 1700's, the first Greek-letter organization arose, Phi Beta Kappa, and started a trend that has lasted to this very day. Even though it would eventually abandon its secretive nature, other Greek-letter organizations began springing up at colleges and in institutions across the country. Following in this tradition, in 1904, Sigma Pi Phi became the first black fraternity. However, it was not created for black college students. The purpose of this organization was aimed at Black professional men, an ideal which throughout the 20th century traversed time through several incarnations. But the fact remains that Sigma Pi Phi was the first black fraternity. 

          Nevertheless, on December 4, 1906, seven young men laid the foundation for what would eventually be called the "grandfather of all black Greek organizations." Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was born at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, for the express purpose of catering to and providing support for black college students who had no actual support system of their own at their institution.  The fact that this organization was founded at an Ivy League institution should not go unnoticed, and rather should be emphasized. 

          Within the next 18 years seven other black Greek organization would begin, forming what was known as the "Elite Eight."  They are (in order of founding date):   Alpha phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, being the first, followed by

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority  

(In November of 1996, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., a fraternity founded at Morgan State University in 1963, was admitted into the National Pan-Hellenic Council.  Therefore, what was once refereed to as the "Elite Eight" is now kindly referred to as the "Divine Nine".) These organizations have been committed to uplifting Black collegiate students and the communities which they represent, providing support and service for nearly a century. Black Greek-letter organizations are the foundations for many collegiate institutions and serve as springboards for Black college students to achieve professional and personal success.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Incorporated is currently composed of nine (9) International Greek letter Sororities and Fraternities: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, Inc. The NPHC promotes interaction through forums, meetings and other mediums for the exchange of information and engages in cooperative programming and initiatives through various activities and functions.

          The Council was organized as a national coordinating body in May 1930 at Howard University (Washington,DC). Charter members include Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi Fraternities, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta Sororities. In 1931, Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternities joined the Council. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority joined in 1937 and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity completed the list of member organizations in 1997.  

Divine Nine

1906 Cornell University Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

1908 Howard University Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

1911 Indiana University Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

1911 Howard University Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

1913 Howard University Delta Sigma Theta Sorority

1914 Howard University Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity

1920 Howard University Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

1922 Butler University Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority

1963 Morgan State University Iota Phi Theta Fraternity


Alpha Kappa Alpha  

    Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Greek-lettered organization established by Black college women (Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Elizabeth Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjore Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Marie Woolfolk Taylor), was founded on January 15, 1908 at Howard University. The following group of sophomore women were chosen to complete the first group so that the sorority would continue after those of the first group had graduated. They were Most Gracious Ladies: Norma Elizabeth Boyd, Alice P. Murray, Ethel Jones Mawbray, Sarah Merriweather Nutter, Joanna Berry Shields, Carrie Snowden, Harriet Josephine Terry.
    One year later, on February 11, 1909, the first initiation was held in Minor Hall at Howard University. In January 29, 1913, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was incorporated to ensure perpetuity. The incorporators of Alpha Kappa Alpha were Nellie Pratt Russell, Nellie Quander, Norma Elizabeth Boyd, and Beatrice Smith. Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown from one undergraduate chapter to an international organization with a membership of more than 140,000 women. Our membership consists of ladies of distinction and exemplary character who excel in scholarship, leadership and service. Our undergraduate and graduate chapters are located throughout the United States, West Africa, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Korea, and Germany. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is the epitome of class, grace, and finer womanhood.
Click here to learn more about Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Kappa Alpha Psi  

          Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. was founded on the campus of Indiana University on January 5, 1911. Originally charted and incorporated Kappa Alpha Nu on April 15, 1911, the name was officially changed to Kappa Alpha Psi on April 15, 1915.
        The Fraternity is predominantly African-American whose fundamental purpose is achievement. Kappa Alpha Psi seeks to train its membership, particularly undergraduates, for leadership roles in their respective communities and the attainment of a high degree of excellence in their academic pursuits.
        Early in this century, African-American students were actively dissuaded from attending college. Formidable obstacles were erected to prevent the few who were enrolled from assimilating into co-curricular campus life. This ostracism characterized Indiana University in 1911, thus causing Elder W. Diggs, Byron K. Armstrong, and eight other black students to form Kappa Alpha Psi which remains the only Greek letter organization with its Alpha Chapter (first Chapter) on the University's campus. The founders sought a formula that would immediately raise the sights of black collegians stimulating them to reach accomplishments higher than they had imagined. With achievement as its purpose, Kappa Alpha Psi began uniting college men of culture, patriotism and honor in a bond of fraternity. Subsequently, chapters spread in succession to the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, and Wilberforce University campuses. By 1919, the Kappa Alpha Psi experience had generated serious interest among black college degree holders to form Alumni Chapters.
       As graduate chapters multiplied, the Fraternity began to expand its programming, for example, "Guide Right," its national social out-reach program was started three years after the first Alumni Chapters were formed. Today National Guide Right programs provide programming, role models, and mentors for at risk and other youth in communities throughout the country and internationally. Click here to learn more about Kappa Alpha Psi.

     Omega Psi Phi     

             The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was founded on Friday, November 17, 1911 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The founders of the Fraternity were three students: Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman and their first faculty advisor Ernest Everett Just. The Fraternity's motto is "Friendship is Essential to the Soul." Omega Psi Phi was the first Black fraternal organization founded at a Black university or college. From its inception, the Fraternity has worked to build a strong and effective force of men dedicated to principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, uplift, and capable of giving expression to the hopes and aspirations of an unfree people in the land of the free.
           Since 1945, the Fraternity has undertaken a National Social Action Program to meet the needs of African-Americans in the areas of health, housing, civil rights, and education. In 1927, the Fraternity made National Negro Achievement Week an annual observance and it continues today as Achievement Week. In its continuing support of African-American education, the Fraternity gives a gift of $50,000 each year to the United Negro College Fund. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. has supported the UNCF since 1955. Click here to learn more about Omega Psi Phi.

   Delta Sigma Theta

         Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated was founded on January 13, 1913 at Howard University by 22 dynamic undergraduate women. These young women wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide to the needy. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide services and programs to promote human welfare. Delta Sigma Theta has a membership of over 200,000 predominately African-American college educated women. The Sorority currently has over 850 chapters located in the United States, Japan, Germany, Bermuda, Haiti, the Bahamas, the Republic of Korea and the Virgin Islands.
        The major programs of the Sorority are based upon the organization's Five Point Thrust which is as follows: Economic Development, Educational Development, International Awareness, Involvement Physical and Mental Health Political Awareness and Involvement. Program Development and Implementation in Delta is a cooperative function with several committees and executive board involved. Those with direct leadership responsibilities for implementation include members of the Program, Planning, and Development Committee, Social Action Committee, Membership Services and Regional Officers. A brief listing of the selected national program areas are as follows: Delta Habitat for Humanity Summit III: Preparing our Sons for Manhood School America Delta Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and AIDS Community Education Project (ADACE) Black College Convocation Distinguished Professor Endowed Chair Delta Days at the Nation's Capitol Young Artists Renaissance Gala. Click here to learn more about Delta Sigma Theta.

   Phi Beta Sigma

        Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Howard University in Washington, DC on January 9th, 1914 by three young black male students. The founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor , Honorable Leonard F. Morse and Honorable Charles I. Brown wanted to organize a Greek-letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the high ideals of brotherhood, scholarship and service. The founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as "a part of" the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged on his own merits rather than his family background or affluence, without regard of race, nationality, color, skin tone or texture of hair. They wished and wanted their fraternity to exist as a part of an even greater brotherhood-sisterhood which would be devoted to the "inclusive we" rather than the "exclusive we."
From its inception, the founders also conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Rather than gaining skills to be utilized exclusively for themselves and their immediate families, the founders of Phi Beta Sigma held the deep conviction that they should return their newly acquired skills to the communities from which they had come. This deep conviction was mirrored in the fraternity motto, "Culture For Service and Service For Humanity."
        Today, more than three-quarters of a century later, Phi Beta Sigma has blossomed into an international organization of leaders. No longer a single entity, the fraternity has now established the Phi Beta Sigma Educational Foundation, Inc. and the Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union (to build financial equity within our target communities). With the force, vigor, power and energy of its more than 100,000 dedicated men united in more than 700 chapters across the United States, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, Phi Beta Sigma continues to faithfully perpetuate composite growth and progress as the "people's fraternity" dedicated to providing services to all humanity.
Click here to learn about Phi Beta Sigma.

Zeta Phi Beta

       A Community Conscious Action-Oriented Organization Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded in 1920, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. as the sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Five women chose not to embrace the tenets of the established black sororities, and chartered Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to encourage the highest standards of scholarships through scientific, literary, cultural and educational programs; promote service projects on college campuses and in the community; foster sisterhood and exemplify the ideal of Finer Womanhood. A private nonprofit organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is incorporated in Washington, D.C. and in the state of Illinois.
Since its inception, the sorority has chronicled a number of "firsts" among the established black sororities. In addition to being the only organization constitutionally bound to a fraternity, the sorority was the first to charter international chapters, those in West Africa and Germany; to form adult and youth auxiliary groups, the Amicae, Archonettes, Amicettes and Pearlettes; and to organize its internal affairs within a central, national office administered by a paid staff.
       Today, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is classified as a non-profit service organization with a membership exceeding 100,000 college educated professional women. The membership operates within eight regions in more than 700 chapters located in the domestic United States of America, Hawaii, Alaska, West Africa, West Germany, Bahama Islands, Virgin Islands, South Korea and Italy. Click here to learn about Zeta Phi Beta.

     Sigma Gamma Rho

     Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc was founded seventy-five golden years ago on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority is the youngest sorority in the National Pan-Hellenic Council and remains the first and only historically African-American collegiate sorority founded on a predominantly white campus. This non-profit service and social organization was founded on November 12, 1922--a time when higher education for women and African-Americans was difficult to obtain.
     Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority's aim is to enhance the quality of life within the community. Public service, leadership development and education of youth are the hallmark of the organization's programs and activities. Sigma Gamma Rho addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically, and economically. Despite all odds, seven dynamic, spiritual and strong African-American women rose to meet the needs of the African-American and women communities by organizing this stellar institution. And today, seventy-five years later, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority continues to be a beacon of light for all. Click here to learn more about Sigma Gamma Rho.


Iota Phi Theta

        Iota Phi Theta was founded on September 19,1963 on the campus of Morgan State University. Our founders were unique because they were "non-traditional" students and 3 to 5 years older than the average college student. Some were married, some were veterans, and some even held full time jobs while attending college to earn a degree. This led to the concept of a "fraternity" that was different than the others at the present time. A very mature group of young men had a vision...a vision of Iota Phi Theta.
        As of today, Iota Phi Theta exits as a nationally incorporated social/service fraternity which continues to remain true to the original aims of its founders. While the fraternity's membership is comprised primarily of African- Americans, membership is not restricted by race, creed, or national origin. The fraternity consists of over 100 undergraduate and alumni chapters with nearly 15,000 members located in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The fraternity colors are Charcoal Brown and Gilded Gold. The fraternity motto is "Building a Tradition.....Not Resting Upon One."
As iota has grown, it has endeavored to maintain a standard of excellence and leadership on campus and in the community. Individual chapters involve themselves in activities that allow members the opportunity to give of themselves and enrich the lives of others. A partial listing of involvements undertaken by Iota Phi Theta chapters includes the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Federation of the Blind ,the National Sickle Cell Foundation , the United College Negro Fund , Big Brothers of America , Project IMAGE.                                                           Additionally, Iota Phi Theta is a member of the National Interfraternity Conference (NIC). The NIC is an international organization consisting of over 60 national fraternities with a combined membership of over six million individuals. As a member of the NIC, Iota Phi Theta is able to directly affect the issues of importance to the fraternal community at large. Click here to learn more about Iota Phi Theta.                                                      




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