Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was established as a sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on January 16, 1920, at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
In today’s world of Greek letter organizations, it is extremely rare to find a sorority and fraternity that are constitutionally bound to one another. There are instances of fraternity members helping women to establish sororities, such as a Phi Delta Theta Fraternity alumnus helping the founder of Delta Zeta Sorority organize the sorority.
However, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity set out to establish a sister sorority after a general consensus of the membership in 1919. The result was Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
History of Zeta Phi Beta
When Phi Beta Sigma founder A. Langston Taylor received permission to form a sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Taylor set out to recruit women at Howard University to organize what would become Zeta Phi Beta.
Five women were chosen as founders of this sister sorority, which was also founded on the premise that the organization should be viewed as part of the community, not an elitist entity that existed outside of the community. On January 16, 1920, Arizona Cleaver, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, Fannie Pettie, and Pearl Neal formally organized Zeta Phi Beta. These five women are today known as “The Five Pearls” of Zeta Phi Beta.
From the beginning, Zeta Phi Beta was constitutionally bound to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Today, the partnership still exists, despite many national sororities and women’s fraternities condemning groups such as “little sisters” and auxiliary or sister groups to men’s fraternities.
In 1923, Zeta Phi Beta became the first black Greek letter organization (BGLO) to establish a chapter in the state of Texas, at Wiley College. It was also in that year that Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was incorporated in the District of Columbia.
In 1930, representatives from Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity met on the campus of Howard University and formed what became known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC.) Today, the nine members of the NPHC have been nicknamed the “Divine 9.”
Zeta Phi Beta received its articles of incorporation from the state of Illinois in 1939.
Zeta Phi Beta Today
Today, Zeta Phi Beta is comprised of over 800 chapters in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Over 125,000 women claim membership in the organization.
Zeta Phi Beta has partnered with several national and international organizations to create social and philanthropic projects. Some of these organizations include the NAACP, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, the Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Pan-hellenic Council. In addition, Zeta Phi Beta is recognized as a non government organization (NGO) by the United Nations.
Zeta Phi Beta can be identified from other fraternal organizations through various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: royal blue and pure white
- Symbol: dove
- Flower: white rose
- Partnerships: NAACP, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, the Urban League, and many more
- Motto: Scholarship, Sisterly Love, Service, Finer Womanhood
Founded in 1920 with the aid of one of Phi Beta Sigma’s founding brothers, Zeta Phi Beta holds a unique position in the world of fraternities and sororities as one of the few organizations that is constitutionally bound to another. Despite this arrangement, Zeta Phi Beta continues to be a strong voice for African-American women who wish to impact their communities and the world around them.