Alpha Phi Alpha
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Chapter, ca. 1940s.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: A Centennial Celebration

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: Brief Background

On December 4, 1906, seven undergraduate students at Cornell University, “The Seven Jewels,” organized Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first intercollegiate fraternity among African American men. With the Great Sphinx of Giza as its symbol, and the motto “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” Alpha Phi Alpha dedicated itself to defend the rights and to promote the responsibilities of African Americans. The founders of Alpha Phi Alpha sought to combine social purpose with social action, to be more than a social organization. Throughout its history, Alpha Phi Alpha has promoted knowledge and achievement.

The archives for Alpha Chapter at Cornell University reveal the tenacity of the early members of the Fraternity as it expanded to Howard University in 1907 and to Virginia Union University in 1908, and subsequently to other major campuses across the country. Although Alpha Chapter helped to shepherd the early growth of the Fraternity, it soon relinquished its administrative role as Alpha Phi Alpha became a national organization. The Sphinx Magazine, published in 1914, is the second oldest continuously published black journal in the United States. The oldest one is the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine, which was started by W.E.B. Du Bois, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Alpha Chapter encouraged the Fraternity to adopt its signature program “Go-to-High School, Go-to-College” in 1919 to increase the number of black students eligible for college enrollment. Over the years, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has initiated national programs to end segregation in professional education, to increase voter registration and turn-out, to create decent and affordable housing for African Americans, to encourage business development, to foster male sexual responsibility, and to mentor young men. In 1998, Congress authorized and the President approved Alpha Phi Alpha’s request to build a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of Alpha’s most distinguished members.

Robert L. Harris, Jr., National Historian
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
13 April 2006

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