Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision

Article excerpt

African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision Edited by Tamara Brown, Gregory S. Parks, and Clarenda Phillips Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2005. 520 pp. $39.95.

Black African American fraternities and sororities have been a part of American higher education since 1906, when the first collegiate Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO) was founded at Cornell University. African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision provides a comprehensive picture of the BGLOs which together form the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). These organizations have deep roots in the Black American culture and are linked to organizations that pre-date them. For example, the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity held their first rituals in an Ithaca, New York, Masonic lodge, and it is said that the original Alpha Phi Alpha handshake was so similar to the Prince Hall Masonic greeting that it had to be changed. Thus, the early founders of BGLOs consciously and sometimes unconsciously imitated African nomenclature and organizational structures.

The book begins by citing the chronology of when each group came into existence. Howard University has been called the cradle of BGLOs. From 1908 to 1920, five national organizations were established there. One organization, Gamma Tau (1934), is now defunct. Organizations that continue to be active are Omega Psi Phi (1911), Phi Beta Sigma (1914), Alpha Kappa Alpha (1908), Delta Sigma Thêta (1913), and Zêta Phi Beta (1920). Iota Phi Theta was organized at Morgan State University in 1963. The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) was organized in 1930, and comprises nine of the BGLOs; they are Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Between 1930 and 1974 there were other BGLOs, but they were not incorporated into the NPHC. Furthermore, a divide between older members of BGLOs and other organizations existed. The book does not discuss the existence of such organizations as Groove Phi Groove; such omissions are highly noticeable overall in the book. Even so, in the final chapter of the book is the recognition that research is needed on the many BGLOs which are not a part of the NPHC.

The second part of the book covers BGLO culture. Some of the well-known aspects of the culture such as public rituals, branding, calls, and stepping are discussed. The third part of the book addresses such issues as racism, sexism, aggression, and rape. Perhaps the most controversial issue is pledge hazing. This issue is contentious, not only because of the law suits which have grown out of hazing practices, but also because of the loss of life. The most recent example is the incident in which several sorors were drowned in a hazing experience. Despite the NPHC's ban on pledge hazing, it still exists. …

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