Alpha Phi Alpha National History

“The opening of the school year, 1905-1906, found at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, a group of black students distributed in the various colleges of the University, who were desirous of maintaining more intimate contacts with one another than their classroom study permitted.”

“As black students in a large American University, they were cut off from the many opportunities for mutual helpfulness which come to groups of students through personal acquaintance and close association. As individuals there were personal contacts of value with other members of the students body, but as a group they were proscribed in their associations. The cleavage, characteristic of this period, had laid the basis for the division even in college life. Many of these students were self-supporting and their resources were limited, and if membership in the university fraternal associations had been permissible, it is probable that advantage could not have been taken of the opportunity. Confronted by the social proscriptions of color common to American institution of this era, hampered by limited means with the attendant circumstances of the average “poor” student, these students faced the future and boldly endeavored to find a way our of their difficulties, scarcely realizing, however, the import of their action on subsequent generations of college students.”

-Charles H. Wesley

Founded on December 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha, the first, largest, and most influential intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans, has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African-Americans and people of color around the world. Initially, the Fraternity served as a means of intellectual advancement and support for men of color at Cornell. As founder Henry Arthur Callis euphemistically stated—because the half-dozen African American students at Cornell University during the school year 1904-05 did not return to campus the following year, the incoming students in 1905-06, in founding Alpha Phi Alpha, were determined to bind themselves together to ensure that each would survive in the racially hostile environment.??Today, Alpha counts over 185,000 men among its brotherhood and has chartered over 850 chapters throughout all 50 states, the African continent, Europe, and the Caribbean. Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the world community’s fight for civil rights through distinguished members such as W.E.B. DuBois, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., United States Senator Edward Brooke, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, and many others.??The founders, students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, are known as the Seven Jewels. They are Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle, and Vertner Woodson Tandy. These young, visionary men recognized the need for a strong bond in an institution of higher learning that traditionally didn’t cater to men of African descent. They were keenly aware of how the ills of racism, discrimination, and prejudice systematically plagued African Americans, and sought to use the bonds of brotherhood to help each other, as well as, members of the campus and neighboring community march onward and upward.