Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity

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Founding photo of Alpha Chapter, Howard University, circa 1914

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded by three young African-American men at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on January 9, 1914.

By 1914, three black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) could trace their roots to Howard University: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

However, as more and more African-American men and women entered colleges and universities across the country, BGLOs continued to expand to accomodate the need for fellowship and the opportunity for leadership and community service.

In 1914, America’s fourth BGLO would begin to form at Howard University: Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

History of Phi Beta Sigma

Phi Beta Sigma was founded by three African-American male students at Howard University on January 9, 1914.

The men wanted to create a fraternity that was not exclusive, but inclusive by incorporating men of all backgrounds into its membership. The three founders wanted Phi Beta Sigma to be viewed as an organization that was part of the community, not something that was a separate entity.

Phi Beta Sigma established two more chapters in 1915, but soon the membership of Phi Beta Sigma would be disbursed and almost completely demolished after World War I. Shortly after the United States entered World War I, Phi Beta Sigma’s membership was so depleted that the original group at Howard University was the only one that was able to sustain any kind of activity.

After the leadership of the fraternity reestablished all but one of the chapters, Phi Beta Sigma worked toward becoming a stronger fraternity and expanding throughout the United States.

At the 1919 national convention, Phi Beta Sigma founder A. Langston Taylor recieved permission from the delegation to organize a sister sorority to Phi Beta Sigma at Howard University. After recruiting women to charter the organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was founded on January 16, 1920.

In 1931, Phi Beta Sigma joined the National Pan-hellenic Council (NPHC,) the umbrella organization of America’s nine national and international historically African-American sororities and fraternities. Today, the nine members of the NPHC are nicknamed the “Divine 9.”

In 1949, Phi Beta Sigma became an international organization after establishing two graduate chapters in Monrovia, Liberia. Six years later, in 1955, Phi Beta Sigma established a graduate chapter in Geneva, Switzerland.

Phi Beta Sigma Today

Today, Phi Beta Sigma maintains a membership of over 150,000 men of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. The organization has over 650 undergraduate, graduate, and alumni chapters throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Bahamas.

Phi Beta Sigma has many national projects that focus on bettering the African-American community at large. These projects include focuses such as business, education, political awareness and involvement, leadership development, HIV/AIDS, and social activism.

Phi Beta Sigma can be distinguished from other fraternal organizations by various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.

  • Colors: royal blue and pure white
  • Symbol: dove
  • Flower: white carnation
  • Social Initiatives: various national programs in many different areas that help better the African-American community
  • Motto: Culture for Service and Service for Humanity

Founded in 1914, Phi Beta Sigma bounced back after the devastation of World War II to become an international fraternity spanning three continents. Today, members of Phi Beta Sigma continue to serve the community and continue the founding philosophy as the fraternity being a part of the community, not a separate entity.