Organizations

Fraternal, Social Service, and Religious Organizations

What is the purpose of black Greek letter organizations?

Near the beginning of the twentieth century, Greek letter organizations emerged on college campuses. For the African-American community they have been vital contributors to life and culture, by offering communal identity and spearheading initiatives in education, health, careers, teenage pregnancy, family issues, juvenile delinquency, and in community life. Greek letter organizations, whether on college campuses or graduate chapters in the community, provide scholarships for the education of black students, mentoring programs, leadership programs, and other initiatives. Rather than serve as social organizations, they are clearly service organizations that contribute to the uplift of the black community.

The oldest Greek letter organization for blacks on a college campus is Alpha Phi Alpha, founded at Cornell University in 1906. Notable among the early members were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, activist and scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, and, later, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Following the Alphas, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity was established at Howard University in 1911. Among its prominent members are activist and minister Jesse Jackson Sr. and civil rights leader and minister Benjamin Hooks. Phi Beta Sigma was founded in 1914; among its ranks were scientist George Washington Carver and, much later, actor Blair Underwood.



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