Alpha Phi Alpha marks 107th Founder’s Day

Miami Times staff report | 12/5/2013, 9 a.m.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the few Black students that had been admitted to universities in the U.S. ...

At the beginning of the 20th century, the few Black students that had been admitted to universities in the U.S. were often excluded from associations enjoyed by the mostly-white student populations in the form of fraternal organizations.

During the 1905–06 school year, at Cornell University, Black students organized the first Greek letter fraternity for and by Blacks. The aim was to provide an opportunity for association and mutual support among Black students. Some of the founders wanted a social and literary club where everyone could participate — others wanted a traditional fraternal organization.

The society decided to work to provide a literary, study, social and support group for all minority students who encountered social and academic racial prejudice. The original founding members (often referred to as the Seven Jewels) were Henry A. Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert H. Ogle, Vertner Woodson Tandy and James H. Morton. The latter's recognition as founder was replaced in 1952 with Eugene Kinckle Jones. On Oct. 23, 1906, Kelley proposed that the organization be known by the Greek letters Alpha Phi Alpha; Ogle proposed the colors black and old gold. By Dec. 4, 1906, the decision was made to refer to the group as a “fraternity.”

Consolidation and expansion

The fraternity's constitution was adopted on Dec. 4, 1907, limiting membership to Black male students and providing that the General Convention of the Fraternity would be created following the establishment of the fourth chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.

The preamble states the purpose of Alpha Phi Alpha: To promote a more perfect union among college men; to aid in and insist upon the personal progress of its members; to further brotherly love and a fraternal spirit within the organization; to discountenance evil; to destroy all prejudices; to preserve the sanctity of the home, the personification of virtue and the chastity of women. Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha are given Greek-letter names in order of installation into the Fraternity. No chapter is designated Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet and traditionally used for “the end.” Deceased brothers are said to have joined Omega Chapter.