African American Greek-letter fraternities and sororities created in the 20th century arose from a need for African American students on college campuses to build a support system of brotherhood, sisterhood, and service. The formation of African American Greek-letter societies was in defiance of the long view that African Americans were not intellectually capable of understanding Greek study, as well as to contest their exclusion from white Greek-letter fraternities and sororities. Since their inception, African American fraternities and sororities have played a key role in shaping generations of black leaders. Many of America’s most prominent business leaders, scientists, politicians, entertainers, and athletes took their first steps toward creating a better world as a member of a fraternity or sorority.
Since the early 20th century, five major fraternities were created in the United States. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was the first African American Greek-letter fraternity created at Cornell University in 1906. Following suit, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity was founded (Indiana University, 1911), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (Howard University, 1911), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (Howard University, 1914), and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. (Morgan State University, 1963).
There are four major sororities, all of which were formed in the early 20th century. They include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (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).