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History of the Divine 9 Black Greek Fraternities and Sororities

There are nine black sororities and fraternities which make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). Founded in 1930 at Howard University, the purpose of the Council was to foster cooperative actions of its members in dealing with matters of mutual concern. According to their website, the primary purpose and focus of NPHC member organizations remain to be community awareness and action through educational, economic, and cultural service activities.

Founded during a time when racial isolation and social injustice ensued on predominantly white college campuses, black letter greek organizations formed as a way to bring themselves together with others who shared the same goals and aspirations. Their mission was to foster a personal bond of sisterhood and brotherhood to bring about change and create positive outcomes for blacks.

Each sorority and fraternity was founded on a historical date and has its own distinct pillars they were built upon. The term “Divine Nine” was coined by author Lawrence Ross in his book, “The Divine Nine: the History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America”

Let’s get into more detail about each.

What are the different black sororities?

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated ® (AKA), an international service organization, was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1908. It is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African American college-educated women. Founded on January 15, 1908, the founders were among the fewer than 1,000 black students enrolled in higher education institutions in 1908 and the 25 women who received a bachelor of arts degrees from Howard University between 1908 and 1911.

Alpha Kappa Alpha has over 120,000 active members and more than 355,000 members initiated worldwide.

Delta Sigma Theta

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college-educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Founded in 1913 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC their first act of public service was participating in the Suffrage March of 1913.

The sorority currently has 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters located in the United States, Canada, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, West Africa and the Republic of Korea.

Zeta Phi Beta

Founded in 1920 also on the campus of Howard University, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. upholds its Founders’ vision, setting itself apart as an organization built on the ideals of Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood, and Finer Womanhood. The founders of Zeta Phi Beta believed in the need for a new and different type of Greek-lettered organization and acted upon that need. Their priority was to provide true Service, embrace Scholarship, establish a standard for Sisterly Love, and define the noble concept of Finer Womanhood.

With over 125,000 initiated college-educated women, Zeta represents women with diverse careers ranging from businesswomen, elected officials, educators, doctors, nurses, military, and attorneys.

Sigma Gamma Rho

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was organized on November 12, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana, by seven young educators. The group became an incorporated national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929, when a charter was granted to the Alpha chapter at Butler University. Since its inception, the dynamic women of Sigma Gamma Rho have built and sustained a well-known and well-respected reputation for leading positive change to help uplift the community through sisterhood, leadership, and service.

Sigma Gamma Rho has welcomed more than 100,000 collegiate and professional women from every profession. The sorority has more than 500 chapters in the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United Arab Emirates.

What are the different black fraternities?

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha™, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American Men, was founded on December 4, 1906™ at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of brotherhood among African descendants in this country. The founders and early leaders of the fraternity succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Alpha Phi Alpha’s principles of scholarship, fellowship, good character, and the uplifting of humanity.

Kappa Alpha Psi

Kappa Alpha Psi® is the 2nd oldest existing collegiate historically Black Greek Letter Fraternity and the 1st intercollegiate Fraternity incorporated as a national body. Founded in 1911 on the campus of Indiana University, there was less than 1% of blacks on campus, and at that time did not encourage the assimilation of Blacks

It remains the only Greek letter organization with its Alpha Chapter on Indiana University’s campus. The Fraternity has over 125,000 members with 700 undergraduate and alumni chapters in nearly every state of the United States, and international chapters in Nigeria, South Africa, the West Indies, the United Kingdom, Germany, Korea and Japan.

Omega Psi Phi

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was founded on November 17, 1911, as the first international fraternal organization founded on a historically black college campus, Howard University. The founders were three undergraduates — Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman. Joining them was their faculty adviser, Ernest Everett Just.

From the initials of the Greek phrase meaning, “friendship is essential to the soul“, the name Omega Psi Phi was derived. That phrase was selected as the motto. Today, Omega Psi Phi has over 700 chapters throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, China, Germany, Ghana, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, St. Croix VI, St. Thomas VI, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

Phi Beta Sigma

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The Founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor, Honorable Leonard F. Morse, and Honorable Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service.

The Founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as “a part of” the general community rather than “apart from” the general community. From its inception, the Founders also conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, founded in 1920 with the assistance of Phi Beta Sigma, is the sister organization of the Fraternity.

Iota Phi Theta

On September 19, 1963, at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), 12 students founded the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated ®, and established the following purpose: “The development and perpetuation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and Brotherhood among Men.” Today, Iota Phi Theta® consists of over 250 chapters located in 40 States, the District of Columbia and the Republic of Korea. The organization’s scope extends throughout the nation, from California to New York; from Wyoming to Florida; and from Wisconsin to The Bahamas Islands.

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