Fraternity History

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. - History

The most remarkable leadership in the African American community in the 20th century has without question come from the ranks of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Since its founding on December 4, 1906, the Fraternity has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African Americans and people of color around the world. Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity in the United States established for men of African descent, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood between African Americans. The visionary founders, known as the "Jewels" of the Fraternity, are: Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle and Vertner Woodson Tandy. 

The Fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice— educationally and socially—at Cornell. During those beginning days, the Jewel founders and early leaders of the Fraternity worked to lay a solid foundation for Alpha Phi Alpha’s principles of scholarship, fellowship, good character and the uplifting of humanity. While continuing to stress academic excellence and pursuit among its members, the Fraternity also recognized the need to help correct the educational, economic, political and social injustices faced by African Americans. The Fraternity’s national programs date back to 1919, when Alpha Phi Alpha introduced its "Go-to-High School, Go-to-College" campaign to increase the education level of the African American community. Alpha Phi Alpha later took the lead in the voting rights struggle for African Americans and coined the nationally famous phrase: "A Voteless People is a Hopeless People" as part of its effort to register black voters. The slogan remains the battle cry today for Alpha voter registration efforts. Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the African American community’s fight for civil rights and human dignity. From the Fraternity’s ranks have come outstanding leaders such as: W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, William Gray, Paul Robeson, John Hope Franklin, Maynard Jackson and many others. True to its form as the “first of firsts,” Alpha Phi Alpha has been interracial since 1945. 

The Fraternity’s leadership development and community service training for young men has made Alpha Phi Alpha the most prestigious organization of its kind today. Today, Alpha Phi Alpha continues its commitment to the African American community through the Fraternity’s Education and Building foundations, which provide scholarships to outstanding students and shelter to underprivileged families. The Fraternity also has dedicated itself to training a new generation of leaders with national mentoring programs and partnerships designed to ensure the success of our children and youth.