African Americans have a very rich Greek legacy. With 5 fraternities & 4 sororities, Greek life plays a very pivotal role in the African American collegiate community.
Unlike white Greek lettered organizations, the African American Greek lettered organizations are lifetime memberships. In other words, the community service, sisterhood (and even fun!) doesn’t end once you graduate college. It is truly a lifetime commitment. Even as a 4-year college graduate, membership is still available (if you are invited & selected to join).
These Greek lettered organizations have played a pivotal role in the civil rights movements & African American history. They represent the educated, informed and civilly concerned within the African American community.
Alpha Phi Alpha Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of brotherhood among African descendants in this country. The fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially, at Cornell. The Jewel founders and early leaders of the fraternity succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Alpha Phi Alpha’s principles of scholarship, fellowship, good character, and the uplifting of humanity. While continuing to stress academic excellence among its members, Alpha also recognized the need to help correct the educational, economic, political, and social injustices faced by African Americans.
Kappa Alpha Psi
The night of January 5, 1911, on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana, Kappa Alpha Psi was founded to sow the seed of a fraternal tree whose fruit is available to, and now enjoyed by, college men everywhere, regardless of their color, religion or national origin. The Constitution of KAPPA ALPHA PSI is predicated upon, and dedicated to, the principles of achievement through a truly democratic Fraternity.
Omega Psi Phi
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college. Since its humble beginnings on the Howard University campus, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity continues to be on the front line, leveraging its power, influence and more than 100 years of commitment to the uplift of our people and our communities.
Sigma Phi Beta
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The Founders wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service. The Founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as “a part of” the general community rather than “apart from” the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits, rather than his family background or affluence…without regard to race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. They desired for their fraternity to exist as part of an even greater brotherhood 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, they held a 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’s motto, “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity”.
Iota Phi Theta
On September 19, 1963, at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), 12 students founded what is now the nation’s fifth largest, predominately African-American social service fraternity. Based upon the founders ages, heightened responsibilities, and increased level of maturity, this group had a slightly different perspective than the norm for college students. It was this perspective from which they established the Fraternity’s purpose, “The development and perpetuation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and Brotherhood among Men.” Additionally, they conceived the Fraternity’s motto, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!”
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated had its humble beginnings as the vision of nine college students on the campus of Howard University in 1908. Since then, the sorority has flourished into a globally-impactful organization of over 283,000 college-trained members, bound by the bonds of sisterhood and empowered by a commitment to servant-leadership that is both domestic and international in its scope.
As Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown, it has maintained its focus in two key arenas: the lifelong personal and professional development of each of its members; and galvanizing its membership into an organization of respected power and influence, consistently at the forefront of effective advocacy and social change that results in equality and equity for all citizens of the world.
Delta Sigma Theta
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded on January 13, 1913 by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to those in need. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. is a private, not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world. Since its founding more than 200,000 women have joined the organization. The organization is a sisterhood of predominantly Black, college educated women.
Zeta Phi Beta
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded January 16, 1920, at Howard University, Washington, D.C. Since its inception, Zeta has continued its steady climb into the national spotlight with programs designed to demonstrate concern for the human condition both nationally and internationally. The sorority takes pride in its continued participation in transforming communities through volunteer services from members and its auxiliaries. Zeta Phi Beta has chartered hundreds of chapters worldwide and has a membership of 100,000+. Zeta‘s national and local programs include the endowment of its National Educational Foundation community outreach services and support of multiple affiliate organizations. Zeta chapters and auxiliaries have given untotaled hours of voluntary service to educate the public, assist youth, provide scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change.
Sigma Gamma Rho
Organized on November 12, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana, by seven young educators, Sigma Gamma Rho became an incorporated national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929. It is the mission of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority to enhance the quality of life for women and their families in the U.S. and globally through community service. Our goal is to achieve greater progress in the areas of education, healthcare, and leadership development. Our members, affiliates, staff and community partners work to create and support initiatives that align with our vision. Soaring To Greater Heights Of Attainment Around The World, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., as a leading national service organization, has met the challenges of the day and continues to grow through Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service.
All of these fraternities & sororities are a part of the National Pan Hellanic Council which is a group that is dedicated to the unification of all African American Greek lettered organizations. The stated purpose and mission of the organization in 1930 was “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.” With that said, there are chapters in every major city across the country.
While all of these organizations have been around for nearly a century (or more), there is no doubt that they are leaving a lasting legacy for the next generation of African American college students.
Are you in a sorority or fraternity? If so, which one & what attracted you to that organization? For those of you who are not Greek, do you think these organizations are making a positive impact on African American society today? Please share in the comments section below –