ODN Item of the Week: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Founded at Cornell University in 1906 with a Kent State University chapter taking shape in 1958, Alpha Phi Alpha is the first African American focused intercollegiate Greek-lettered fraternity. Its founders are known as the Seven Jewels, and its aims are “Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love For All Mankind”.

The fraternity has been open to men of all races since 1945, but continues to focus on service projects that impact the needs of African American men and their communities. These efforts are split into three main areas – special initiatives that focus on more time-sensitives needs, nationwide programs such as voter engagement and elder care, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Education Foundation, the fraternity’s own non-profit charity that supports the implementation of service projects.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity members walk through Kent State University’s campus, 1970. Photographer Lafayette Tolliver.

There have been many notable members of Alpha Phi Alpha since its inception, ranging from civil rights leaders, activists and athletes, lawyers and businessmen, and even local heroes. That’s right – Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Cornel West, Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall, and James Shaw Jr. are all fraternity brothers. And aside from the impact that these individuals’ work and lives have had, the fraternity itself continues to shape the world; more recently they have provided aid to earthquake victims in Haiti, and were the driving force behind the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. – a project over 40 years in the making!

Kent State University’s chapterEpsilon Delta, has the same objectives as its national organization – “…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.” 

Today we’re looking at a candid photograph of some of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Kent State members taking a walk through campus in in 1970. I wonder what they have gone on to since then? You can see more photographs from Alpha Phi Alpha’s Epsilon Delta chapter on DPLA, thanks to the work of Kent State University Libraries.