Educational Organizations

Where are chapters of Phi Beta Kappa on black college campuses?

Phi Beta Kappa was organized at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 5, 1776. Initially it was a secret social club, but abandoned its secrecy in 1826 when it became an honor organization based on scholarship. In 1877 Phi Beta Kappa accepted its first African-American member—George Washington Henderson— who was a student at the University of Vermont. Chapters of this most prestigious honorary society for undergraduate achievement in the humanities have been established on several black college campuses. The first chapter of the society at a black university was established at Fisk University in Nashville on April 4, 1953. The chapter at Howard University in Washington, D.C., was formed four days later. Since then, the only other black colleges with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter are Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in Atlanta. Phi Beta Kappa elected its first black national president in 1973, when historian and scholar John Hope Franklin (1915–2009) became its leader. He held office until 1976 and presided over the society’s two-hundredth anniversary celebrations.


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