At the start of the 21st century, members of the Divine Nine began reaching their 100-year anniversaries — Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in 2006 and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 2008. This year, both Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity join the Century Club. By 2022, eight of nine black fraternities and sororities will have passed the 100-year mark.
Captions by Lawrence Ross
In the 1920s, Alpha man Thurgood Marshall, the future associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Omega man Langston Hughes, the brilliant American writer, were great friends at Lincoln University. Marshall was known to participate in pranks against other fraternities, yet it was a prank gone wrong that got him expelled. It was only with the help of Hughes, who came up with the idea of having Marshall and his cohorts write a confession letter, that Marshall was readmitted.
When it comes to great, socially conscious comedians, black fraternity and sorority members abound. Steve Harvey of Omega Psi Phi; Wanda Sykes, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha; Bill Cosby of Omega Psi Phi; Sheryl Underwood, national president of Zeta Phi Beta; Cedric the Entertainer of Kappa Alpha Psi; and Dick Gregory of Alpha Phi Alpha are just some of the comedians who have not only used comedy to make millions laugh but have also used the platform to make millions think.
The popular television show Dancing With the Stars has turned into Dancing With the Sigmas, with Phi Beta Sigma brothers Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward winning the competition in 2006 and 2011 respectively, and Jerry Rice coming in second in 2006.
In 1972, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority purchased the home of late Alpha Phi Alpha member Martin Luther King Jr., and donated it to his wife, Alpha Kappa Alpha soror Coretta Scott King. At the time, the $20,000 donation was the largest by an African-American organization. The money was used to refurbish the home, which was still occupied by the King family.
One of the first acts by the newly established Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was to participate in a 1913 Washington, D.C., suffrage march. The 22 founders of Delta Sigma Theta would face racism from white suffragettes who required the sorority members to assemble in a space reserved for blacks. The Deltas, though, refused to march in the back of the parade.
Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta sororities both have auxiliary organizations for women who aren't members but who want to help the sororities as friends. The Philos are friends of Sigma Gamma Rho, and the Amicae help Zeta Phi Beta members.
Most of the founders of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, which came about in the turbulent 1960s, were students who were older than the average college kid and had served in the military before arriving at Morgan State University.
In the 1960s, two Howard students, Delta soror Roberta Flack and Alpha brother Donny Hathaway, would become great friends and go on to sign with Atlantic Records, where they'd produce an album of duets, including the classic "Where Is the Love." The two would record together often until Hathaway's death in 1979.
The AKAs plan to operate a series of senior residential centers called Ivy Acres. The $32 million project will be one of the first residential centers run by an African-American organization. And since 1966, the Akron chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha has operated Alpha Phi Alpha Homes, a nonprofit organization that provides residential housing for the elderly and low-income families.
Divine Nine members have established a proud tradition on television. The late AKA soror Roxie Roker, of The Jeffersons fame and mother of rocker Lenny Kravitz; the late Kappa Whitman Mayo, who was better known to Sanford & Son fans as his character, Grady; and Alpha man Tim Reid, who played Venus Flytrap on the show WKRP in Cincinnati, are just a few of the TV actors and actresses who pledged.