The Divine Women of Delta Sigma Theta

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 collegiate women at Howard University.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to persons in need. The first public act of Delta Sigma Theta was the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington D.C., March 3, 1913. Since its founding, Delta Sigma Theta has been at the forefront of creating programming to improve political, education, and social and economic conditions.

The Shadow League is about more than simply Sports and Entertainment, because those two elements intersect with every segment of society. So today, in honor of the dynamic sorority’s founder’s day, we honor some of the best and brightest women who walk through life with the motto, “Intelligence is the Torch of Wisdom.”

There is an amazing group of honorary Delta’s that includes the likes of Lena Horne, Angela Bassett, Ruby Davis, Cicely Tyson, Winnie Mandela, “Mother” Clara Hale, Susan Taylor, Mary McLeod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, Soledad O’Brien, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Shirley Caesar and Judith Jamison among a host of others.

But our list focuses on the women who pledged an undergraduate or a graduate chapter.

DOROTHY HEIGHT – The president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. An educator and social activist, Height was a civil and women’s rights activist who focused on issues affecting African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness, among many others. 

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Her funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on April 29, 2010 was attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as many other dignitaries and notables.

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T’KEYAH CRYSTAL KEYMAH – An original cast member of In Living Color, one of the greatest comedy programs ever aired on American television, she attended Florida A&M University’s renowned School of Business and Industry. She is also a professional poet, singer, dancer and visual artist.

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KESHIA KNIGHT PULLIAM – She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Spelman College in 2001 and is best known for her childhood role as Rudy Huxtable, the youngest child of Cliff and Clair Huxtable on the Cosby Show. In 1986, at the age of six, Pulliam became the youngest actress to ever be nominated for an Emmy Award. 

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GWENDOLYN B. BENNETT – A versatile artist, poet, prose writer, and teacher, she was very active in the African-American arts community in Harlem, along with being one of the most revered, yet overlooked artists of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement of the 1920’s. 

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(Photo Credit: english.illinois.edu)

NATALIE COLE – Cole, who recently passed away on New Year’s Eve, was the daughter of the incomparable Nat King Cole. She rose to prominence in the 1970’s as an accomplished R&B singer in her own right with hits like “Our Love” and “This Will Be”,  which garnered her a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. 

ROBERTA FLACK – A four-time Grammy winner, Flack is best known for her classic #1 singles – “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. Her arresting duets with the great Donny Hathaway, including “Where Is the Love”, “You Are My Heaven”, “Back Together Again” and “The Closer I Get to You”, are some of the most beautiful landmarks on the American Soul Music tapestry.

Inspired at a young age when she heard Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke sing at a church service, she was awarded a full music scholarship to Howard University at the age of 15. 

DR. BETTY SHABAZZ – The wife and widow of Malcolm X attended Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, left school to become a nurse and later completed her Bachelor’s Degree requirements in New Jersey. In 1972, she enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to pursue an Ed.D. in higher education administration and curriculum development.

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In July 1975, she defended her dissertation and earned her doctorate. She was a longtime educator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.  

DR. SADIE TANNER MOSSELL ALEXANDER – The second African-American woman to receive a Ph. D. in the United States, and the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Alexander was the first African-American woman to practice law in Pennsylvania. She was also Delta Sigma Theta’s first National President, serving from 1919 to 1923.

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DR. REGINA BENJAMIN –  A physician and a former Vice Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, she served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. She has previously served on Morehouse School of Medicine’s Board of Trustee’s. Benjamin attended Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and later graduated from the Morehouse School of Medicine. She obtained an M.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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Benjamin established her own medical practice in Alabama after her residency while also working in emergency rooms and nursing homes. She later obtained an MBA from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, upon which she converted her practice into the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, a small shrimping village along the Gulf Coast, which she rebuilt twice after Hurricane Katrina and a fire destroyed it.

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BEVERLY J. HARVARD – The former Chief of the Atlanta Police Department, she was the first African-American woman in the nation to run a major police department. 

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BARBARA JORDAN – A noted Civil Rights activist, Jordan she was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives. She was also the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.

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Jordan received the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. She majored in Political Science and History at Texas Southern University, graduating magna cum laude in 1956, and went on to graduate from the Boston University School of Law in 1959. 

CANDICE WIGGINS – A guard for the New York Liberty in the WNBA, Wiggins was born in Baltimore, where her father, Alan Wiggins, played baseball for the Baltimore Orioles. She graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Stanford University and Pac-10 women’s basketball history. 

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By the end of her college career, Wiggins was a four-time All-American at Stanford, a rare feat accomplished by only a select few.

WILMA RUDOLPH – One of the most important and accomplished female athletes in history, Rudolph was the fastest woman in the world during the 1950’s and 1960’s. In the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.

Considered a civil and women’s rights pioneer because of her accomplishments, she singlehandedly elevated the sport of women’s track in the United States and around the world. 


Alejandro “Ali” Danois is the Editor-in-Chief of The Shadow League. His features “Humble Beginnings”, and “Rocky Flop” were mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing Anthology as among the country’s most notable stories of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ali is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, and he served as a Producer on the ESPN Films 30-for-30 documentary “Baltimore Boys”.

Follow him on twitter @alidanois