The first Black Greek-letter organization, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Alpha) was founded on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on December 4, 1906. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity currently has more than 850 chapters around the world and a membership in excess of 185,000.
Alpha Phi Alpha was originally founded by seven undergraduate students at Cornell who were later referred to as “The Seven Jewels” by the Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. One Jewel, Charles Henry Chapman, articulated a founding principle of the fraternity when he said, “We must never lose sight of the fact that we must take part in the development not only of ourselves but of all humanity.” With this vision Alpha Phi Alpha encouraged scholarship, fellowship, good character, and service to the entirety of humanity. In 1906 when racial tension at Cornell caused many black students to leave the campus, members of the fraternity vowed to continue their education and encouraged African American students to follow their example. From that point forward, Alpha Phi Alpha members viewed the acquisition of education as central to the progress of all African Americans. They recognized the need to form a safety network for minority students to encourage each other in their quest for education and in the parallel fight for justice and equality.
The bond and brotherhood of Alpha Phi Alpha includes scholar and political activist W.E.B. Dubois, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attorney Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most prominent 20th Century civil rights activist of our time.
The legacy of Dr. King motivated his fraternity brothers to create the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation, Inc. The goal of this foundation is to build a memorial in honor of Dr. King’s life, legacy and international achievements on the Mall in Washington, D.C. This memorial is currently under construction.
The goals of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Inc. to impact of education, character, and service to humanity are reflected in its many programs. The College Life to Corporate Life Initiative (C2C) gives its members career opportunities through partnerships built between the fraternity and the corporate world. The Business and Economic Foundation provides impoverished communities the financial means to establish business ventures that aid in the economic development of that neighborhood. Alpha’s Education Foundation continues the goal of the fraternity’s founders to encourage and support African Americans in their efforts to obtain college degrees. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. remains at the forefront of political, economic, and social uplift in the African American community.