Alpha Phi Alpha, the first Black Greek letter organization on an intercollegiate level, celebrates its Founders Day today. Founded on December 4th, 1906 by men known as the Seven Jewels on the campus of Cornell University, Alpha men have made significant contributions to every aspect of American society.
The fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially, at Cornell. The Jewel 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.
Alpha Phi Alpha chapters were established at other colleges and universities, many of them historically black institutions, soon after the founding at Cornell. The first alumni chapter was established in 1911. While continuing to stress academic excellence among its members, Alpha also recognized the need to help correct the educational, economic, political, and social injustices faced by African Americans.
Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through 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 and many others.
True to its form as the first of firsts, Alpha Phi Alpha has been interracial since 1945.
Other notable Alpha’s include Dick Gregory, Donny Hathaway, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Lionel Richie. In media, Roland Martin and the late Stuart Scott are Alpha men and from the world of sports are names such as legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, Olympian Jackie Robinson, and Pro Football Hall of Famers Fritz Pollard and Gene Upshaw.
Since its founding, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African Americans and people of color around the world.