History of Alpha Phi Alpha

Since it’s 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.

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.

Alpha Phi Alpha chapters were established at other colleges and universities, many of them historically black institutions, soon after the founding at Cornell. The first Alumni Chapter was established in 1911. While continuing to stress academic excellence among its members, Alpha also recognized the need to help correct the educational, economic, political, and social injustices faced by African-Americans. Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through leaders such as: W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, William Gray, Paul Robeson, and many others. True to its form as the “first of firsts,” Alpha Phi Alpha has been interracial since 1945.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is governed by the delegates to the General Convention which meets at the call of the general president no less than once every two years. When the General Convention is not in session the fraternity is governed by its Board of Directors. The Board consists of 14 voting members: the general president, immediate past general president, general treasurer, comptroller, five regional vice presidents, and five regional assistant vice presidents (who must be college members). Two non-voting members of the Board are the general counsel and the fraternity’s executive director who serves as secretary of the Board. Past general presidents of the fraternity may sit with the Board but do not participate in any actions of the Board.

The vice presidents and assistant vice presidents lead their respective regions through district directors appointed to operate state and other territorial Alpha Phi Alpha organizations.

Convention, Standing and Special Committees are headed by chairmen appointed by the general president upon confirmation of the Board of Directors. Members of the general president’s cabinet are officers appointed by the president to serve various roles as assigned for the smooth operation of the Office of the General President.

Alpha Phi Alpha’s leadership is unique among other Black Greek-lettered organizations in that it’s the only organization with five of its Board seats designated for college brothers only.