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Alpha Kappa Alpha: A Legacy of Sisterhood and Service (2015)

At the start of the 20th century, African American students were mostly excluded from the prestigious, independent white social clubs on campuses known as Greek-letter organizations.

These segregated clubs were traditionally divided into “fraternities” for male members and “sororities” for female members.

On the fifteenth of January in 1908 at historically-black Howard University in Washington, D.C., nine coeds, led by Ethel Hedgeman, courageously broke with tradition and founded the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, or “A-K-A.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha became the first college sorority started and incorporated by African American women and the second Greek-lettered organization established for Black Americans.

The first such organization was Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, or "A-Phi-A," which was founded in 1906 at Cornell University.

Ethel Hedgeman’s initial inspiration came from the accounts of sorority life at Brown University relayed to her by Ethel T. Robinson, a young Black English teacher at Howard who'd made history three years earlier by graduating from the Women’s College at Brown.

The vision of Ethel Hedgeman was to create a support network for women with like minds who would coalesce their talents and strengths for mutual uplift and the benefit of others.

In her quest to realize her dream, she obtained advice from two of her teachers, English professor Ethel T. Robinson and romance language professor Elizabeth Appo Cook. With the sound advice of her mentors, her vision crystallized as Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Five years later, on January 29, 1913, Nellie Quander, the sorority’s international president from 1913-1919, ensured Alpha Kappa Alpha’s perpetuity through incorporation in the District of Columbia.

The mission crafted for Alpha Kappa Alpha comprised five basic tenets that have remained unchanged since the sorority’s inception more than a century ago. Those tenets are to:

Cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards,

Promote unity and friendship among college women,

Study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature,

Maintain a progressive interest in college life, and

Be of “Service to All Mankind".

Since Alpha Kappa Alpha’s humble beginnings on the Howard University campus, it has flourished into a globally-impactful organization of over 265,000 college-trained members.

The sorority consists of 986 chapters in 42 states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Germany, the continent of Africa, South Korea, Japan, and Canada.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is bound by the bonds of sisterhood and empowered by a commitment to servant-leadership that is both domestic and international in its scope.

As the sorority has grown, it has maintained a focus on two areas: enhancing its members personally and professionally and increasing the organization’s power and influence.

Because of this duo focus, Alpha Kappa Alpha members remain consistently at the forefront of effective advocacy for civil rights, social justice, fair labor, equality of education and equity for all citizens of the world.