History of Alpha Phi Alpha
Since its founding on December 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African-Americans and people of color around the world.
Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood among African descendants in this country. The visionary founders, known as the "Jewels" of the Fraternity, are Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle, and Vertner Woodson Tandy.
Born out of a desire to promote close association and mutual support among the small population of African-American males who were college students at the turn of the century, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has provided leadership, development and community service training to men for nearly a century. 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. Thanks largely to its visionary founders and dedicated early leaders, the Fraternity has become the most prestigious organization of its kind in existence today.
The certificate of incorporation for the organization was filed and recorded in the office of the Secretary of the State of New York as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. on January 29, 1908. The Fraternity was again incorporated on April 3, 1912, under the laws of the District of Columbia. The purpose and object of the Fraternity was declared to be “educational and for the mutual uplift of its members.”
The constitution, adopted on December 14, 1907, provided that following the establishment of the fourth chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the general organization of the Fraternity would be set. Alpha Phi Alpha chapters were developed at other colleges and universities, many of them historically black institutions, soon after the founding at Cornell.
The Fraternity's national programs date back to 1919, when Alpha Phi Alpha introduced its “Go-to-High School, Go-to-College” campaign to increase the education level of the African American community. Alpha Phi Alpha later took the lead in the voting rights struggle for African Americans and coined the nationally famous phrase: “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People” as part of its effort to register black voters. The slogan remains the battle cry today for Alpha voter registration efforts.
Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community's fight for civil rights through leaders such as: Thurgood Marshall (Nu), W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, William Gray, Paul Robeson, and many others.
More than 175,000 men have joined the ranks of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, since the organization’s founding in 1906. The Fraternity is international with local chapters located throughout the United States, District of Columbia, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Africa. Today, Alpha Phi Alpha continues its commitment to the African American community through the Fraternity's Education and Building foundations which provide scholarships to outstanding students and shelter to underprivileged families. The Fraternity also has dedicated itself to training a new generation of leaders with national mentoring programs and partnerships designed to ensure the success of our children and youth.
Fraternity Mission Statement: The objectives of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. are to stimulate the ambition of its members; to prepare them for the greatest usefulness in the cause of humanity, freedom, and dignity of the individual; to encourage the highest and noblest form of manhood; and to aid downtrodden humanity in its efforts to achieve higher social, economic, and intellectual status.
Jewel Henry Arthur Callis
Became a practicing physician, Howard University Professor of Medicine and prolific contributor to medical journals. Often regarded as the “philosopher of the founders,” and a moving force in the Fraternity’s development, he was the only one of the “Cornell Seven” to become General President. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., he was a medical consultant to the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. Upon his death in 1974, at age 87, the Fraternity entered a time without any living Jewels. His papers were donated to Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Jewel Charles Henry Chapman
Entered higher education and eventually became Professor of Agriculture at what is now Florida A&M University. A university funeral was held with considerable Fraternity participation when he became the first Jewel to enter Omega Chapter in 1934. Described as “a Brother beloved in the bonds,” Chapman was a founder of FAMU’s Beta Nu Chapter. During the organization stages of Alpha Chapter, he was the first chairman of the Committees on Initiation and Organization.
Jewel Eugene Kinckle Jones
Became the first Executive Secretary of the National Urban League. His 20-year tenure with the Urban League thus far has exceeded those of all his successors in office. A versatile leader, he organized the first three Fraternity chapters that branched out from Cornell—Beta at Howard, Gamma at Virginia Union and the original Delta at the University of Toronto in Canada. In addition to becoming Alpha Chapter’s second President and joining with Callis in creating the Fraternity name, Jones was a member of the first Committees on Constitution and Organization and helped write the Fraternity ritual. Jones also has the distinction of being one of the first initiates as well as an original founder. His status as a founder was not finally established until 1952. He died in 1954.
Jewel George Biddle Kelley
Became the first African American engineer registered in the state of New York. Not only was he the strongest proponent of the Fraternity idea among the organization’s founders, the civil engineering student also became Alpha Chapter’s first President. In addition, he served on committees that worked out the handshake and ritual. Kelley was popular with the Brotherhood. He resided in Troy, New York and was active with Beta Pi Lambda Chapter in Albany. He died in 1963.
Jewel Nathaniel Allison Murray
Pursued graduate work after completing his undergraduate studies at Howard. He later returned home to Washington, D.C., where he taught in public schools. Much of his career was spent at Armstrong Vocational High School in the District of Columbia. He was a member of Alpha Chapter’s first committee on organization of the new fraternal group, as well as the Committee on the Grip. The charter member of Washington’s Mu Lambda Chapter was a frequent attendee of General Conventions. He died in 1959.
Jewel Robert Harold Ogle
Entered the career secretarial field and had the unique privilege of serving as a professional staff member to the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations. He was an African American pioneer in his Capitol Hill position. He proposed the Fraternity’s colors and was Alpha Chapter’s first secretary. Ogle joined Kelley in working out the first ritual and later became a charter member of Washington’s Mu Lambda Chapter. He died in 1936.
Jewel Vertner Woodson Tandy
Became the state of New York’s first registered black architect, with offices on Broadway in New York City. The designer of the Fraternity pin holds the distinction of being the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned First Lieutenant in the 15th Infantry of the New York State National Guard. He was Alpha Chapter’s first treasurer and took the initiative to incorporate the Fraternity. Among the buildings designed by the highly talented architect is Saint Phillips Episcopal Church in New York City. He died in 1949, at age 64.