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Over the past five years there has been a wealth of books written on the African-American experience including biographies, autobiographies, fiction and nonfiction books. As an avid reader and book collector, I am always curious to to see how Alpha is presented in books written by Brothers and books dealing with organizational history. I usually turn to the Index of these books to see if Alpha is included. I have accumulated and briefly annotated a few titles below which discusses the fraternity in some aspect. I have listed those titles where the fraternity is not mentioned at all. This is not a complete list but a sampling of titles.
Title: Our Kind of People (Inside America's Black Upper Class) Harper
Chapter 5 "The Right Fraternities and Sororites"
"But as the presence of Alpha Phi Alpha and the other seven black organizations
grew on black campuses during the early 1900s, they were each known for
building their popularity by seeking out certain desirable student candidates(.e.g.
smart, popular, accomplished, affluent.) and turning down
Graham devotes three pages to Alpha but throughout the book makes it
clear that Alpha was "the" fraternity to join to be accepted in the status
Chapter 4 "Waking Up"
"Thurgood traveled to Lincoln with Aubrey Marshall (his brother)...There were 285 men at Lincoln that year. Aubrey had pledged a fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha... Thurgood, meanwhile was at the heart of campus life. He took part in two rituals of young male college society. First he joined Alpha Phi Alpha, an elite fraternity of mostly light skinned boys. Although the fraternity was at the top of campus society, its hazing was rough...Once he became an Alpha, Thurgood delighted in the nasty tricks fraternity brothers would play on each other and on rival frats... Marshall' s life at Howard also included some fraternity run-ins. Half the class was made up of Alpha Phi Alpha, his fraternity...Marshall represented the Alphas as the competed with the Omegas...The Alphas thought they could run the class..."
Williams devotes about three pages to Thurgood's college days. He does not however, mention Thurgood's involvement with the fraternity's era of civil rights in the 1940s and desegregating law schools, one of the greatest periods in the history of the fraternity.
Title: Thurgood Marshall: Warrior of the Bar, Rebel on the Bench by
"Chapter Seven "An Ethiop Among the Aryans"
"As Marshall impatiently waited for Houston's answer, Belford V. Lawson,
Jr., turned his attention to the University of Maryland. Lawson served
as counsel of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Many of the national fraternity's
members, like members of the Washington and Baltimore branches of the NAACP,
were light skinned and held coveted government jobs or were professionals
Skip's note- More discussion of Thurgood's account of his pledging days
at Lincoln's Nu Chapter will be used in an article that I am working on
on "The Origins of Pledging"
Chapter One "A Time for Decision"
"In concession to my father, I joined his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. The Alphas were the oldest black fraternity in the country. My pledgemaster was David Dinkins, a marine veteran a year ahead of me at Howard and future Mayor of New City. The Alphas gave me a sense of belonging and I was quite proud when the chapter elected me chaplain in my senior year-perhaps because I was one of the few brothers who didn't smoke or drink. The challenge of pledging and completing probation to the fraternity was something of a rite of passage to manhood. ....."
Title: Andrew Young: An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the
Chapter 5: Serving Bethany"
"The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity chapter at Talledega in Alabama provided
my first opportunity to meet Martin Luther King....I accepted the invitation
in the spring of 197 to speak for the Alpha Phi Alpha annual program...When
I arrived I discovered I was one of two speakers. Martin King was the other.
I look forward to hearing him speak and to meeting him with great
Title: The Young Paul Robeson by Lloyd Brown (Westview Books)
p.111 " Robeson joined Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Lincoln....."
Title: The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Vol. II Rediscovering Precious
There are several pages referencing King's involvement with Alpha p. 39-"June 22, 1952 King is initiated into Boston's Sigma Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha social fraternity"
p. 560- "King gives the benediction at a June Citizenship Rally sponsored
"W.H. Coston writes a letter to King to speak at the Southern Region
Convention in 1955"
Skip's Note: A recent autobiography actually compiled by Clayborn Carson does not make any mention of King's affiliation with Alpha.
Title: Beyond the Timberline by T.M. Alexander
"In 1939, while in New York, I attended a meeting of my national fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha...Members came from all over the country. Speakers outlined their problems and what they had attempted to do to solve them....he bemoaned the plight of the brothers in the South and the need for the organization to give leadership and help its southern members..."
*Brother T.M. Alexander served as president of Eta Lambda Chapter. He
was initiated into Alpha Rho Chapter at Morehouse in 1930. His son (now
deceased) and grandson were also Alpha Rho initiates. He just recently
celebrated his 90th birthday.
p. 57... "Here I was, just two semester from graduating, and I
Darden devotes five pages to his experience pledging Alpha.
Title: King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell,
p. 12 "Powell got himself initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha, the renowned fraternity for young black men. There was no Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at Colgate, which never had enough black students to organize one. Walking by Powell's room...noticed an Alpha insignia, which he had conspicuously affixed to his door at eye level...The three were perplexed, and also quite impressed. "How he became an Alpha I'll never know, said Crosby" Powells senior picture shows him in a three piece pin striped suit, silk tie, collar closed by a stickpin....There was nothing beneath Powell's picture but the Alpha Phi Alpha insignia, a distinction none of his classmates enjoyed"
I have compiled a brief list of books published about Alpha men, where I assumed Alpha would be included but is not:
Title: Suceeding Against The Odds by John Johnson with Lerone Bennett
Title : Bearing The Cross Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian
Title: W. E. B. DuBois Biography of a Race 1868-1919
by David Levering Lewis.
Title: Jesse Owens An American Life by William J. Faulkner (Free Press,
In the chapter dealing with his days at Ohio State University, there is no mention of his joining Kappa Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Nigger: Autobiography of Dick Gregory
*If there are books that you are have read or aware of, please share the titles with me for future editions.
A FEW LETTERS FROM BROTHERS ABOUT THE HISTORICAL MOMENTS:
"Brother I am so full, I was with you in DC and I heard her words thru you. Tears are in my eyes. I worked so hard to be an ALPHA and I am so proud that the movement goes on."
Dear Brother Mason,
A BROTHER WANTS TO KNOW:
"I was told by many other bros. that 6 of the 7 Jewels were Prince Hall Masons. If indeed they were, wouldn't whatever they experienced in the Masonic rituals have some bearing on our rituals??"
My Dear Brother Waters:
Keep in mind that the Jewels prior to Cornell had no experience in Greek letter fraternal traditions and rituals. If there are Masonic overtones, then only brothers who are Masonic men would know. Perhaps there are some similarities as I have heard brothers in passing mention. In my research, I have not found any documentation that any of the founders were Masons prior to their coming to Cornell. It does not mean that they were not, I simply have not been able to fully document it. I do know that George Biddle Kelley was a Masonic member. What I do know is that much of what they learned about the Greek Letter structure was done through their work as waiters in the white fraternity houses at Cornell. Callis worked at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House and Kelley at the Beta Theta Pi House. Callis always admitted that they patterned a great deal of the foundation of the ritual after the "white boys'"(see Henry Arthur Callis: Life and Legacy by Charles Wesley" He said that they were very helpful and cooperative in their quest to organizing their fraternity and even gave them a copy of their ritual. While our ritual is unique in its ties to our African-American culture and history the basic format is patterned after some of the white fraternities. (The Internet is certainly no place to discuss items such as the ritual, however, I simply wanted to address him from a historical research viewpoint)
FROM THE LIPS OF A JEWEL: