Phi Beta Kappa, the first American college fraternity, was organized on the campus of the College of William and Mary in 1776. Men and women are members of this college honorary scholarship society.
Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities have played a major role in American college life since 1776. Black college fraternities and sororities did not emerge until the early 1900s. Unlike their white counterparts, black fraternities and sororities have remained very active at the graduate level. Since their founding, these groups have played a major role in the cultural, social and civic life of their communities.
The eight member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the university and year in which they were founded are:
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Howard University, 1908
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Howard University, 1913
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Howard University, 1920
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Butler University, 1922
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Cornell University, 1906
- Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Indiana University, 1911
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Howard University, 1911
- Phi Beta Sigma, Howard University, 1914
THE BIRTH OF OMEGA
On Friday evening, November 17, 1911, three Howard University undergraduate students, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, gave birth to the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. This event occurred in the office of biology Professor Ernest E. Just, the faculty adviser, in the Science Hall (now known as Thirkield Hall). The three liberal arts students were Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman.
From the initials of the Greek phrase meaning "friendship is essential to the soul," the name Omega Psi Phi was derived. The phrase was selected as the motto. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift were adopted as cardinal principles. A decision was made regarding the design for the pin and emblem, and thus ended the first meeting of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity .
The next meeting was conducted on November 23, 1911. Edgar Love became the first Grand Basileus (National President). Cooper and Coleman were selected Grandkeeper of the Records (National Secretary) and Grandkeeper of Seals (National Treasurer), respectively. Eleven Howard University undergraduate men were selected as charter members.
Alpha Chapter was organized with fourteen charter members on December 15, 1911. Love, Cooper and Coleman were elected the chapter's first Basileus, Keeper of Records, and Keeper of Seals, respectively.
On March 8, 1912, the previously submitted fraternity constitution was rejected by the Howard University Faculty Council. The Faculty Council proposed to accept the fraternity as a local but not a national organization. The fraternity refused acceptance as a strictly local organization.
Oscar Cooper became the fraternity's second Grand Basileus in 1912. Cooper authorized the investigation of a proposed second chapter at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.
Edgar Love was elected as the third Grand Basileus in 1912 and served until 1915. In 1914, Howard University withdrew its opposition, and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914. Beta Chapter at Lincoln University was chartered in February, 1914.
George E. Hall, the fourth Grand Basileus, had been initiated at Alpha Chapter in 1914. Grand Basileus Hall authorized the establishment of Gamma Chapter in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the chapter was eventually established during the administration of the fifth Grand Basileus, James C. McMorries.
During the administration of the sixth Grand Basileus, Clarence F. Holmes, the fraternity's first official hymn, "Omega Men Draw Nigh", was written by Otto Bohannon.
Raymond G. Robinson, the seventh Grand Basileus, established Delta Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee in 1919. Robinson left office in 1920 with a total of ten chapters in operation.
Stanley Douglas served as Editor of the first Oracle published in the spring of 1919.
Harold K. Thomas, the eighth Grand Basileus, was elected at the 1920 Nashville Grand Conclave. It was at this Conclave that Carter G. Woodson inspired the establishment of National Achievement Week to promote the study of Negro life and history.
The 1921 Atlanta Grand Conclave brought to an end the first decade of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
In 1922, Grand Basileus J. Alston Atkins appointed the first District Representatives. Today, there are eleven such officers who are elected annually by the district conferences/meetings.
In 1922, the office of Vice Grand Basileus was created. The Grand Keeper of Records became the Grand Keeper of the Records and Seal. The first Omega Bulletin was published in 1928. Campbell C. Johnson was the Editor.
"Omega Dear" was adopted as the official hymn in 1931. Two faculty from Howard University, Charles R. Drew, Professor of Surgery, and Mercer Cook, Professor of Languages, were the composers. Cook wrote the music and first stanza; Drew wrote the last two stanzas.