READ IT, SAVE IT, COPY IT, FILE IT, FORWARD IT, DISCUSS IT AND BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF THE FRATERNITY
One of the most rewarding aspects of the research that I engaged in on the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha was uncovering and learning more about the parents of our beloved Seven. While we view them as Icons and gods of Alpha's, these men were sons, grandsons, uncles and later fathers, grandfathers and great-great grandfathers. Skip's Historical Moments will focus each day this week on a mother(s) of our Jewel to help you gain some insight of the background for which they came from. Regrettably very little information was found on some of the mothers of Jewels, namely Mrs. Josephine Callis, Mrs. Matilda Decker Kelley (our two subjects for this issue). I have not been able to even identify the name of Jewel's Chapman's mother. From research, his mother died and he was raised by his grandfather in Lake Cuyauga, New York (near Ithaca and Auburn)
Traditional and non traditional resources were used to identify parentage of the founders beginning with obituaries and notices of their death after a composite list of death dates was compiled. From that point, census research was done from 1870 to 1900. A great deal of the 1870 censuses are not indexed. The strategy was to identify the head of household which would have been the Jewels father. Because all our Jewels were born after 1880, except for Jewel Chapman, the research strategy became unique. In order to trace the mother, I needed to know their maiden names. The census does not list maiden's name. In order to get a marriage license, I needed to know the date of marriage or find an index with the male's name listed. Sound complicated, well it doesn't stop there. The 1890 census which would have been a crucial census to find our Jewels as young boys, was destroyed by fire for the entire United States. So therefore, the next record to utilize was the 1900 census. In the census for those who are not familiar with its use, you can find the head of household, wife, children, age, sex, color Black, Mulatto), number of years parents have been married, number of children, birthplaces of parents, occupations, schooling and property ownership.
Because there was no permanent record of the Founders in the National Headquarters after it moved to Baltimore and the fact that Wesley in his marvelous book did not include any personal information, the task was somewhat challenging, but for a researcher it was a joy!!
I combed through old Sphinx Magazines for biographical information to begin with. Most major libraries have back issues of the Sphinx. While I was the Fraternity's Archivist, I submitted a proposal to index the Sphinx so it could be a ready reference for chapters wanting to research back issues to obtain chapter histories and photographs. My next step was to attempt to obtain death certificates for the Jewels which would identify parentage as well as utilize other primary source materials. In some cases the mothers were simply not be found in traditional sources, therefore the research continues. Attempting to research the mothers of our founders is a prime example of what happens when the history of a people is left undocumented. My hard driven research nature will not allow me to be content until I feel that some reasonable amount of information has been uncovered, especially on the mothers where there is little.
Get to know our Jewels Mothers this week. In June, I will feature a
father's issue. Let me say that these fathers were some awesome men in
the late 18th and early 19th century. Can't wait to share tidbits with
you on them.
Mrs. Josephine Sprague Callis(Mother of Jewel Henry Arthur Callis)
What a tragedy it must have been for Rev. Henry Jesse Callis when his beloved wife Josephine Sprague died from injuries sustained in an elevator accident in 1890. Our future Jewel was only three at the time when his mother died. Josephine Sprague was born in Maryland in 1862. As a baby, she was stolen from Maryland. Information about her early years and parentage is unknown at this time. Because of her abduction, by 1870, it was difficult to locate Josephine Sprague on the census records. However, based on some collateral information and family legend, the Spragues were descended from a Maryland governor, Samuel Sprigg. Josephine Sprague was the sister (though not fully proven but speculative) of Nathan Sprague, the dashing young man who married Rosetta Douglass, daughter of Frederick Douglass. Our Jewel Callis Sprague cousins included Harriet, Estell, Fredericka and Rosabelle and Herbert. The women were very active in the black women's club movement at the latter part and turn of the century.
Josephine Sprague married Henry Jesse Callis and they were the parents of four children: Leon, Alice, Henry Arthur and Roy Nelson Mrs. Callis assumed the role as mother and wife of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Pastor. At the time of her death at the age of 30, the Callises were at AME Zion Church in Rochester. Rev. Callis later remarried and our Jewel was sent to live with his grandfather Sprague
She is believed to be buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery. It was called a "delightful place for a burial ground, full of forest trees and shrubbery, with fine roads mandering among the hills." It is in that same cemetery where Frederick Douglass is buried.
The Papers of Henry Arthur Callis(Manuscript Division)Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
Wesley, Charles Harris. Henry Arthur Callis: Life and Legacy
(Know any brothers in Rochester? Have them contact me.)
Mrs. Matilda Decker Clark (Mother of Jewel George Biddle Kelley)
Very little has been found on the mother of Jewel Kelley. Being the daughter of a minister, she traveled with her father who pastored numerous churches in New York. Matilda Decker Kelley was so steeped in the tradition of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church when she married Richard Kelley that she named her son after her mother's brother, the Reverend E. George Biddle, one of the pioneers of the AMEZion Church.(More on him in a future issue) Matilda Decker came from a long line of distinguished Hudson River citizens who were established in Newburgh, New York. Her father, the late Rev. W.H. Decker, was one of the most cultured and capable preachers and pastors of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a denomination established in 1796.
Far more was uncovered on Mrs. Kelley's father and uncle due to their dominant role in the AMEZion Church then on Mrs. Kelley. A future article will be presented on the various denominations and their connection to Alpha including the AMEZion(of which the Callis and Kelley families dominated), the CME's and Baptist, and other denominations.
Mrs. Kelley's exact date of death is unknown, however she is buried in the New Mt. Ida Cemetery in Troy, New York along with her husband Richard.
The Sphinx, Summer 1962
(Know any brothers from or in Troy, New York? Have them contact me.)
FROM THE LIPS OF A JEWEL:
"Alpha Phi Alpha was founded to destroy caste"
Jewel George Biddle Kelley, 1933 (at the Eastern Region Conference)
"I helped to spearhead this organization during the dark days when men on many college campuses looked upon a fraternity as a farce. I have lived with the fraternity and dreamed about it over the years, because I wanted to stand with a group of men who dared to follow the spirit of him who said "I come not to be ministered unto, but to minister ," to be a servant.
S.S. Booker, 1946 the 11th General President( 1920-1922)
FROM SKIP'S EMAIL BAG: (Letters from the Bruhs(Email slang for Brothers)
I wanted to commend you on the excellent newsletter series and commentary.
You are indeed igniting the mind, spirit, and brotherhood of Alphas worldwide.
At first, I honestly disregarded your newsletter as just another piece
of email that I might read. However, after reading through a few
issues, I am now completely engaged and supportive.
Thanks for forwarding the back issues, I will save them and share with other brothers. My wife and I visited Washington, DC this summer. We went on the Frederick Douglas Tour. The Tour guide was very knowledgeable of Bro. Douglas and other facts dealing with African American history. We found this very interesting because he was white. During the site he showed us the proposed site for the Dr. King Memorial. The tour was very good, however he made no reference to Alpha Phi Alpha.
My wife and I were the last to leave the bus so I took the time to talk with the guide. I explained to him how the Brothers made Bro. Douglas an Honorary member. I then went on to explain to him how this same fraternity was building the memorial for their brother Dr. King. I also gave a list just a few of the brothers who are member of the fraternity including Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, and Marion Berry (who he held in very high esteem for his community work). He stopped me and stated that I had to be someone of some importance to be a Fraternity with such members. He also wondered how did we managed to have so many members of with such great importance.
By this time he had taken his pen out and was taking notes. I
probably gave him about 20 brothers. He found this information so
profound that he was going to add it to the tour.
ANOTHER BROTHER WANTED TO VENT:
I believe our desire to support the frat is there. However, being financial is just the tip of the iceberg. The quotes from the other brothers ring so true with the frustration of Alpha Phi Alpha.
My belief is - long before we had money we had each other. Now, we focus on money and not each other. If we could redirect our current resources back to our communities-we would be better off than focusing on other things.
Whether financial or not. I am an African-American man who is an Alpha in America. And no matter the man or organization--neither can take this position from me. This is the reality of my existence.
America scorns us, so we follow their lead. I may not personally
know the struggle of past slavery and segregation. But I do know
the effects and reality of it on us today. There is a struggle today
-- with a different body and same ole attitude. If we do not treat
each other better (no matter
u better no u so u can help us
YOU MUST READ THIS!
I'm a Que who recently received your "piece" from another Que and was
moved to comment. Just to keep it real; our charter was returned unapproved
by the faculty precisely because we would not delete the word "national"
from our charter and insert the word "local." As far as your question about
why Dreer left your organization out of our history book, I can only guess
but let me tell you what I think. First of all, my great-grandfather pledged
at your Beta chapter and taught right along side of Colonel Charles Young,
Professor of Military Science and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
at Howard University. Now, I don't know about color restrictions
your organization may have imposed but I do know my great grandfather could
have passed for white if he chose. But then wasn't Howard University founded
at least in part as a place for mulatto
Skip's Note-His letter reminds me that there is a period of time between 1908-1910 that begs to be studied regarding Beta Chapter's presence on the campus of Howard University and the perception and understanding of Alpha Phi Alpha by the faculty, administration and student body.
A FEW PANHELLENIC MOMENTS:
REMEMBER THE ZETA PHI BETA SIGMA ANNOUNCEMENT, WELL READ THIS:
Just to let you know, the Zeta Phi Beta Sigma Gamma Rho incident was
an April Fools' Joke that started last year. I think that one of my Sigma
sands started this rumor and he does it for kicks!
A DELTA MOMENT:
Brothers, Guess What the Delta Stationery had printed on April 1, 1953?
"Every Delta in the House of Delta"
Now where have we heard that term "House of ......."
Did you know that at the Delta's 23rd National Convention in New York in 1954, six chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha chartered the S.S. Pennsylvania to take the Delta's on a moonlight trip down the Hudson. The article said "thousands of dollars were expended by the fraternity to provide dancing and refreshments for visiting sorors on the mammoth pleasure ship"
AN AKA MOMENT:
Did you know that Lucy Diggs Slowe, the first president of Alpha Kappa
Alpha, became the first African-American Dean of Women at Howard University
and held that post until she died in 1937. At her funeral in Rankin Memorial
Chapel the following persons participated: Brother Charles Harris Wesley(Alpha)
presided. Dean of Religion Benjamin Elijah Mays(Omega) prayed. Pallbearers
were Frank Coleman (Omega Founder) and Howard Thurman (Omega-read
A ZETA MOMENT (from the history book comes the following statement):
"And so the idea for establishing the new organization that would become Zeta Phi Beta was born.... Zeta represented Zeal; Phi, Scholarship; and Beta, Sisterly love. Phi Beta was taken from Phi Beta Sigma to signify and seal the relationship between the two organization. Zeta Founder Viola Tyler said later that while she had friends in both existing campus sororities (Delta's and AKA's), "I could not become a friend's maid in order to become a pledge. I thought that zeal or active interest should surpass submissiveness"
Well, all right, Zeta Phi Beta. So let it be written. So let it be done!
THERE IS HOPE!
SKIP'S FAVORITE QUOTE FROM A BROTHER:
Keep up the good work. Historians do not have to be commissioned
by any group to be legitimate. Stay true to your vocation...record
truth and that will be your legacy...
Tuesday- Mrs. Rosa Kinckle Jones (Jewel Jones)
BROTHERS: Look for a book order form by the end of the week with prices to order both hard back and soft back copies of the book.
On the drawing board for next week: The Masonic Affiliations of the
Failed to include on Friday's issue the following:
Please forward email addresses to be added to the list. The list is growing by leaps and bound. Send your Questions, queries, comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMER: This page is
not affiliated with the National Organization. I am not the Historian of
the fraternity, just a brother who is and has always been thirsty for more
knowledge on this organization. The information provided has been thoroughly
researched and documented and is brought to you with all the fraternal
love and spirit I possess. Sources are available upon request.