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.