The National Pan-hellenic Conference was founded in 1930 as the umbrella organization for America’s nine historically African-American sororities and fraternities.
Just as traditional sororities and fraternities were founded on the basis of companionship and fellowship among members, African-Americans found that they were often excluded from a large portion of community-based organizations due to racism.
As more and more African-American men and women were being admitted to colleges and universities across the United States, these men and women felt the need to create organizations that provided fellowship for college-aged men and women, but also for those in the community and who led the way to integrating America’s higher education system.
The National Pan-hellenic Council (NPHC)
On May 30, 1930, representatives from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority met on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Out of this meeting, members of these five organizations for African-American men and women formed the National Pan-hellenic Council to represent their organizations in the sphere of sororities and fraternities in the United States.
The purpose of the National Pan-hellenic Council, as stated on the organization’s website, is to promote “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.” Just like the National Panhellenic Council (NPC) and the North American Interfraternity Council (NIC), the NPHC became an umbrella organization that governed member organizations through unanimous resolutions agreed upon by affiliated organizations.
In 1931, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity joined the NPHC and, in 1937, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority joined the list of member organizations. It wasn’t until 1997, when Iota Phi Theta joiined the NPHC, that the collection of sororities and fraternities also became known as the “Divine 9.”
Following World War II, African-American sororities and fraternities began establishing traditions and other administrative traditions that have now become deeply embedded in these organizations. Expansion throughout the middle portion of the twentieth century, especially following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, continued at a rapid rate on campuses across the country.
NPHC Social Initiatives
Today, the NPHC does not promote a “separatist” philosophy as the reason for a different governing structure than other sororities and fraternities. NPHC, NIC, and NPC organizations commonly work together with other Greek-letter organizations across the country and often work together to sponsor events and carry out community service and philanthropic projects.
However, NPHC member organizations classify themselves as service organizations, which is one reason as to why these organizations represent themselves in this way. Still, the NPHC, NIC, NPC, and other umbrella organizations for Greek-letter groups promote unity, leadership development, scholarship, and service for a lifetime.
The NPHC promotes several social initiatives that all member organizations work to further. The first, adopted in 2001, encourages local chapters and council affiliates to promote social intervention for at-risk juveniles, and to promote community awareness and involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The second initiative, also adopted in 2001, is to promote education and prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS. The resolution states that, due to the rise in the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in African-American communities across the country, that councils should work to promote awareness and education of the disease on campuses and in their communities.
Founded in 1930, the National Pan-hellenic Council works to promote and unify America’s “Divine 9” African-American sororities and fraternities. In addition, the NPHC also works with local council affiliates to better their members, campuses, and communities around them by addressing social issues.