Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first fraternity founded for and by African-American men, was founded on December 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
As more and more African-American men and women were being admitted to colleges and universities, they faced many challenges that stemmed from racial segregation and separatism. Soon, America’s newest college students found the same need of fellowship in a new environment that the founders of other national fraternities and sororities felt in the past.
History of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was founded by seven African-American men at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on December 4, 1906. Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle, and Vertner Woodson Tandy, Alpha Phi Alpha’s founding members, are known as the Jewels of the fraternity.
According to the organization’s website, Alpha Phi Alpha was founded primarily as a scholastic and supportive organization for racial minorities. However, as the fraternity spread, its leadership realized the need for fellowship, service, and social action and worked to implement these principles in fraternity programming.
Two years after the organization’s founding, Alpha Phi Alpha recieved its articles of incorporation from the State of New York in 1908.
Also in 1908, Alpha Phi Alpha chartered its first international chapter at the University of Toronto, and the chapter unfortunately closed shortly afterwards. However, Alpha, as the organization has been nicknamed, has established chapters in the United States, England, Germany, Liberia, the Caribbean, and South Korea.
In 1911, Alpha Phi Alpha established its first alumni organization.
In 1931, Alpha Phi Alpha joined the National Pan-hellenic Council, the umbrella organization of America’s nine national and international African-American fraternities and sororities, or Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs.)
Alpha Phi Alpha also hold membership in the North-American Interfraternity Conference, a similar organization for national and international men’s fraternities.
Notable Alpha Phi Alphas
Throughout its history, Alpha Phi Alpha has had many notable members, including:
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Frederick Douglass
- Thurgood Marshall
- Roland Burris
- Countee Cullen
Alpha Phi Alpha Today
Since 1945, Alpha Phi Alpha has been an interracial organization, welcoming men of all racial backgrounds in their membership. Over 680 collegiate chapters, alumni organizations, and groups affiliated with cities and regions have been chartered across the world since the organization’s founding.
Alpha Phi Alpha can be distinguished from other fraternal organizations by various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: black and old gold
- Symbol: the Great Sphinx of Giza
- Flower: yellow rose
- Social Initiatives / Philanthropies: Head Start, Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Project Alpha with the March of Dimes, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, voter registration
- Motto: First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All
Founded in 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha was the first fraternity founded for and by African-American men. Today, through the organization’s social initiatives and philanthropic projects, Alpha Phi Alpha continues to serve its members and the community in many unique ways.