Sororities are commonly known as a college social club or organization for women, with particular distinction given to the African American sororities. Brought about at the time in history when traditional roles of women were being challenged, the founders of the first black sororities had to overcome the stereotypical views of sexism as well. They were considered unique, although college wasn’t really an option for African American’s. Within society they were being treated in rejection because they were black.
They wanted to have an organization that would be called sisterhood and ties into their community.
Nine dedicated women wanted peace, sisterhood and wanted to become leaders amongst their communities so they formed the first African American sorority in 1908 called Alpha Kappa Alpha. With over a quarter of a millions members in the black sororities numbers are increasing over the years. They continue to be a part of their communities and educate youth in their community. When actual Greek letters were formed for sororities and fraternities white letter groups didn’t think black fraternity groups would be capable of understanding the meanings of the letters and Greek study as they did.
Four major African American sororities that were established included Alpha Kappa Alpha (Howard University 1908), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Howard University 1913), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority (Howard University, 1920), and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority (Butler University, 1922). These organizations have impacted African American women in society and their community as well. Howard University has been the start of majority of the first African American sorority groups. The first African American sorority that came about was Alpha Kappa Alpha.
A woman named Ethal Hedgeman and eight other women in Liberal Arts School formed the sorority called Alpha Kappa Alpha in 1908. The other members included Beulah E. , Lillie Burke, Margaret Flagg Homles, Marjorie Hill, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Marie Woolfolk Taylor, Anna Easter Brown, and Lavinia Norman. Originally the organization was to better it’s members socially and academically, but expanded towards their community also. It was the second black Greek group established, first being Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In 1912, the organization wanted to change the name and symbols, but one graduate member didn’t agree with the changes.
So, she gets the existing sisters and rallies them together all who committed themselves to Alpha Kappa Alpha, AKA, and didn’t want change. They were first incorporated in 1913 and have evolved into affiliation of college educated women committed to academic excellence, ethics, mentoring and public service. Today, the sorority has an impressive membership of more than 170,000 women in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa (Ross, 2000). Delta Sigma Theta was the next sorority to launched on Howard University’s campus in 1913.
Twenty-two women committed to sisterhood, maintain high scholastic standards, and obligated to become role models amongst their society. The founders were Osceola McCarthy Adams, Marguerite Young Alexander, Winona Cargile Alexander, Ethel Cuff Black, Bertha Pitts Campbell, Zephyr Chisom Carter, Edna Brown Coleman, Jessie McGuire Dent, Frederica Chase Dodd, Myra Davis Hemmings, Olive C. Jones, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, Vashti Turley Murphy, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Mamie Reddy Rose, Eliza P. Shippen, Florence Letcher Toms, Ethel Carr Watson, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, Madree Penn White, and Edith Motte Young.
Today, the sorority continues to do all what their founders wanted which envisioned change throughout their community and what’s right. With a membership of over 250,000 women, it is one of the largest African-American women’s organizations in the world, with chapters in the United States, England, Germany, Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, Japan, and Korea (Ross, 2000). In 1920 Zeta Phi Beta Sorority members including Viola Tyler, Pearl Neal, Fannie Pettie, Myrtle Tyler, and Arizona Cleaver wanted to get there messages across about different social issues and wanted to have different was to get it across.
Built on the “precepts of scholarship, service, sisterly love, and finer womanhood,” Zeta Phi Beta established a very first chapter in 1948 in Africa. Today there are over 100,000 members in 800 chapters located in the United States, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean (Ross, 2000). Unlike any other sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho was founded in 1922 in Indianapolis at Butler University by Mary Lou Allison Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Dulin Redford, Bessie M.
Downey Martin, and Cubena McClure. In an environment of racism an Klu Klux Klan activity, seven teachers pictured an organization with sisterhood, scholarship and service as their goal. They wanted to create future leaders, educate youth, and be a part of public service for bettering the community. There are over 400 chapters in the United States, Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Germany. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. is “committed to improve the quality of life for its members and the society it serves” (Ross, 2000).
Women’s organizations have all been considered to have all common goals and experiences that make them want to give back to their communities. These women bonds together, relationships are formed, and roles are redefined. Most of the greatest philanthropic endeavors were run mainly by women, particularly in churches. These African American women wanted the push forward and show their university they can do more than just be a number in the school and still be scholastically intelligent. Leaders of these sororities established organizations that dealt with women who wanted to change society.
What these sororities have in common is the commitment to public service. All African American sororities, as well as fraternities, begins at undergraduate level to commitment. Active members of their chapters have maintain their financial cost and inactive members still have to provide membership time for the common good. Each sorority has a major history and a set of achievements and public service they provide to their community. Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. has been helpful in establishing programs to benefit African American community and society itself. They’ve also participated in the 1913 Women Suffrage March.
During the Great Migration, members assisted southern African Americans to adjust to northern life. The sorority has created a fund for students in need to set high standards of excellent. Throughout the depression, AKA worked with different groups in rural areas for self-improvement. In the 1950’s they continued to move public service and joined the American Council of Human Rights, National Health Office, Social Action, scholarship, and undergraduate housing. During the 1960’s and 1970’s AKA’s sponsored jobs training, reading enrichment, heritage and youth programs.
They continue the legacy of community service and promotion of academic excellence by giving back to their to the community and helping out youth at succeeding in life. AKA Educational Advancement Foundation has a mission to help teach and have a long learning. Staying true to the values and what they are all about, they continue to provide scholarships, grants, and fellowships to whom applies and meet certain criteria regardless of race or gender. The Ivy AKAdemy is a program helps the entire community involving them in educational and human resource center for programs provided by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. has always been committed to public services. Always known for helping others and helping out in their communities to turn wrong doings into right. They never turn away from current issues that need to be resolved. The sorority became active in activism during the Woman Suffrage March, including: the original twenty-two women and ten thousand additional. Most of the women during the march were at risk of being expelled all because of their race. Even the Caucasian women turned the African American women away just because of their ranks in society.
In the 1920-30’s era Delta’s made an effort to distribute scholarships to needy students who had plans to attend college across the nation. Delta were also concerned about literacy among African American people, starting the National Library Project in 1937, supplying them due to Jim Crow Laws. Their participation in the Civil Rights very important because it help meet the financial needs of others who really needed it. Students who participate in certain marches could count on the sorority to pay for bail or for students, tuitions.
Today, Delta Sigma Theta follows the same path as their founders by following their Five Point Program: Thrust of Physical and Mental Health, Educational Development, Economic Development, International Awareness and Involvement, and Political Awareness and Involvement. Delta’s are all about leadership an preparing young ladies into the real world. The Delta’s continue activity within their community. Zeta Pi Beta, Inc. began working with many organizations in the 1930’s. The Zeta Housing Project was created for World War II workers who were in need of houses during those times.
Also during these times, the Zeta’s created different programs to help prevent children becoming juveniles. As a part of their “Finer Womanhood Week” the sorority award local women who’ve showed responsibilities and dedication to their communities awarded “Woman of the Year Awards”. The Civil Rights Movement pushed this sorority to integrate all races instead of segregate. They took hands on approach while working with NAACP and the American Council on Human Rights. Zeta programs include the National Educational Foundation, community service, scholarship assistance, and other charitable organizations.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority joined the March of Dimes in 1972 to help out with prevention of birth defects and infant deaths, including educating women on prenatal care during their first trimester of pregnancy. Main purpose of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. works mainly to provide positive services in the community. They award scholarships and grants to college students to help them further their careers. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. also was a leader in the fight of women’s rights and African American rights by creating those programs in the 1930’s to help assist African American students.
During the Great Depression, the sorority created the Sigma Gamma Rho Employment Aid Bureau to help others who were in need of jobs and giving them a helping hand at obtaining one. Their motto, “Greater Service, Greater Progress,” meant that all their hard work could pay off and be great to someone they serve. Just as the Zeta’s, Sigma Gamma Rho also help in prevent juveniles with a program called Sigma Teen Town. During the 1950’s, Sigma Gamma Rho became members of the American Council of Human Rights and created an integrated program known as Camp Achievement for overachievers.
They also created Anti-Poverty programs nationally because they were big supporters of the NAACP during the Civil Rights Movement. The 1970’s was the era where opportunities for funding through the March of Dimes would help the mothers learn more about health for their children. When Sigma Gamma Rho first came about originally they were to benefit all races. Their objective is to “remove barriers and inequalities so that all people of America may develop their potential and exercise full citizenship. ” Sigma Public Education and Research Foundation (SPEAR) provided funding for the sorority’s programs they offered, research, and education.
As supporters for a great community development, they’ve partner with other organizations to provide certain services such as Project Reassurance Prenatal Care, Mwanamugimu Project Essay Contest, Program for Africa Grain Grinders are provided to ease the workload of African women, Project Wee Savers Children for ages 6-18 learn banking and investing skills, Operation BigBookBag, a tutoring and mentoring program that helps students at high risk of not succeeding as well as others, and Sigma Youth that’s held in March.
Philanthropy has many roles, three of which are to increase human potential, to alleviate human misery, and to improve the quality of life in communities (O’Connell, 1999). African American sororities exist because they wanted leadership to be developed to seek success in life. Among their members, sororities want to inspire others and share their vision. Improvements in one’s life can mean the better good in the community, just as sororities do.
Poverty, illiteracy, and injustice are all improvements sororities set out to fix. Sororities were initially set for African American students as a sort of outreach to the black community. All these sororities work for the common good of all Americans to improve advantages of the disadvantage of others. The overall theme of sororities is basically to provide and give to underprivileged youth in order for them to be productive and successful citizens in life.
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