The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi is to a large extent the story of Black students everywhere. Black students have attended institutions of higher learning (most of which are predominantly white) since early in the nineteenth century. The first black student to graduate from an American college or university is said to have been Alexander Twilight, who received a Bachelors’ Degree from Middlebury College in 1823. In 1826, Edward Jones graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts. Two weeks later, John Brown Russwurm graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine.
Their accomplishments were and are noteworthy. Moreover, their determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable social and economic odds, is a source of inspiration. To understand their plight, is to understand the birth of college fraternities among blacks.
In 1903, on the Indiana University campus, a club called Alpha Kappa Nu was formed to strengthen the black voice at the University and in the city of Bloomington Indiana. That club didn’t last very long. There is no record of any similar organizations at Indiana University until the chartering of Kappa Alpha Nu in 1911, later to become Kappa Alpha Psi.
The state of Indiana became a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. Vigilante lynching was commonplace. Despite this hostility of Whites toward Blacks in Indiana, some Black students sought a college education at Indiana University, as it was a high quality, tuition-free university.
The percentage of Blacks at the University was less than 1%. Black students could go weeks without seeing one another on campus. Blacks were not allowed to reside in on-campus dormitories, were not afforded off-campus accommodations, and they were denied the use of all other university facilities. Track and Field was the only sport which Blacks were able to demonstrate their athleticism. For Black students, assimilation into normal school life was impossible.
Something had to be done.
Photo of Fraternity House, Bloomington Indiana – From the Story of Kappa Alpha Psi. Copyright of photos are with respective owners, no copyright infringement intended.
In the school years of 1910-11, a small group of Black students attended Indiana University. Two of these men, Elder Watson Diggs and Byron Kenneth Armstrong, both from Indiana, previously attended Howard University.
Eight other men met with Diggs and Armstrong to organize a fraternity. The founding members were Elder Watson Diggs, Byron K. Armstrong, John M. Lee, Henry T. Asher, Marcus P. Blakemore, Guy L. Grant, Paul W. Caine, George W. Edmonds, Ezra D. Alexander and Edward G. Irvin. Diggs presided as president.
The Founders were God-fearing men who possessed the imagination, ambition, courage and determination to defy custom in pursuit of a college education and careers. The ideals of the church were an important foundation of the Fraternity.
It was clear at the outset that these men of vision decided the Fraternity would be more than another social organization. Reliance would be placed upon high Christian ideals and the purpose of ACHIEVEMENT.
On January 5, 1911, the Fraternity was founded as Kappa Alpha Nu. Kappa Alpha Nu began uniting college men of culture, patriotism and honor in a Bond of fraternity. Kappa Alpha Psi® is the 2nd oldest existing collegiate historically Black Greek Letter Fraternity and the 1st intercollegiate Fraternity incorporated as a national body once granted a charter by the Indiana Secretary of State on May 15, 1911.
Black America Web, Little Know Black History Fact: Kappa Alpha Psi, https://blackamericaweb.com/2017/01/05/little-known-black-history-fact-kappa-alpha-psi/ – Copyright of photos are with respective owners, no copyright infringement intended.
One day, as one of the Fraternity members, Frank Summers, was running the hurdles, Founder Diggs overheard a White student state, “He is a member of Kappa Alpha Nig”. Also, some confused the acronym of the Fraternity’s Greek letters, KAN, with the abbreviation of the letters that refer to the state of Kansas.
As such, the members chose the Greek Letter Ψ to replace the N, and the Fraternity acquired a distinctive Greek letter symbol – Kappa Alpha Psi ®thereby became an indistinguishable Greek-letter Fraternity.
The name was officially changed to Kappa Alpha Psi on a resolution adopted at the Grand Chapter Meeting in December 1914. This change became effective April 15, 1915.
Since the beginning, every endeavor was directed toward establishing the Fraternity upon a strong foundation before embarking on plans of expansion.
Notably, Kappa Alpha Psi® was the first to Black Greek Lettered Organization to issue a monthly publication.
What began as a dream has developed into a vibrant world-wide organization. Kappa Alpha Psi now has undergraduate and alumni Chapters on major campuses and in cities all over the globe.
Photo of Four of the Ten Founders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., circa 1953, https://twitter.com/kapsi1911/status/1211663775260172289?lang=fr,
copyright of photos are with respective owners, no copyright infringement intended.
Photo credit Wilberforce University, Public Domain, Photo of members of Kappa Alpha Psi Chapter at Wilberforce University (Ohio) in 1922, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kappa1.jpg, copyright of photos are with respective owners, no copyright infringement intended.
Kappa Alpha Psi® boasts members who epitomize the Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor. Some famous members include: Ralph Abernathy, Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Gayle Sayers, Kenneth Clark, Mark Lamont Hill, Stan Lathan, Whitman Mayo, Montell Jordan, Benjamin Jealous, Oscar Robertson, Augustus “Gus” Johnson, Jr., Cedric the Entertainer, Arthur Ashe, Mike Tomlin, Gayle Sayers, Adrian Fenty, Hakeem Jeffries, Donald Byrd, Johnnie Cochran, Smokie Norful, John Singleton, Earl Thomas, Tom Bradley, Bob Johnson, Percy Sutton, Calvin Butts, Leon Sullivan, John Conyers, Alcee Hastings, Reginald Lewis, Lerone Bennett Jr., Alex English, Allan Houston, Penny Hardaway, Kwame Jackson, Mark Tatum, Brandon Marshall, Tavis Smiley, Marvin Sapp, and Colin Kaepernick to name a few.
Content adapted from:
The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi
& Wikipedia List of Kappa Alpha Psi Brothers