Iota Phi Theta Fraternity was founded at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, just three weeks after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Civil Rights Movement became turbulent in 1963. Across the United States, peaceful protests became violent, leaders of various movements were assassinated, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of a quarter of a million people during the March on Washington in August of that year.
Three weeks after King’s speech, twelve African-American male students at what is now Morgan State University came together to bring one of their dreams to realization.
History of Iota Phi Theta
Iota Phi Theta was founded by twelve African-American men attending Morgan State University, then known as Morgan State College, on September 19, 1963.
The founders of the fraternity were different than most of the students at Morgan State University at the time. The men were older, non-traditional students, some of whom had served in the military or had participated in various demonstrations throughout Baltimore.
From the beginning, Iota Phi Theta’s emphasis has been on service to others and the community. While the fraternity is classified as a social organization, many of Iota Phi Theta’s programs remain service-oriented.
Throughout the rest of the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s and 1990s, Iota Phi Theta continued to expand its membership and established chapters abroad.
In 1997, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity became the ninth member of the National Pan-hellenic Council, the umbrella organization of America’s nine historically African-American international sororities and fraternities. Today, the black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that comprise the National Pan-hellenic Council are also known as the “Divine 9.”
Iota Phi Theta Today
Today, Iota Phi Theta has over 270 chapters across the United States, the Bahamas, and South Korea. Over 35,000 men claim membership in the fraternity, which emphasizes the individuality of its members.
In terms of service, Iota Phi Theta has partnered with many national and international organizations to provide assistance to the community and the world. Some of these partnerships include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP,) the United Negro College Fund, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, The National Federation of the Blind, and the National Sickle Cell Foundation.
Iota Phi Theta, like other fraternal organizations, can be identified by various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: charcoal brown and gilded gold
- Symbol: centaur
- Flower: yellow rose
- Partnerships: NAACP, United Negro College Fund, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Federation of the Blind, National Sickle Cell Foundation
- Motto: Building A Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!
Founded in 1963, Iota Phi Theta is the newest member of the National Pan-hellenic Council. While its founders were different from many of their classmates, the twelve men who began this fraternity had the same needs that many of its members around the world still share today.