Celebrating Community:

A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social and Civic Institutions



This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first continuous, collegiate black Greek letter fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Established in an age when racial segregation and disenfranchisement plagued African Americans, the rise of each of the black fraternities and sororities that make up the "Divine Nine" bore witness to the fact that despite hardships African Americans refused to assent to a status of inferiority. Serving more than just their immediate members, the "Divine Nine" joined with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, the Prince Hall Masons, and Eastern Stars, the Urban League, and other civic organizations to provide service to the entire black community. Rosa Parks exemplified what one member of a community can achieve.

The "Divine Nine" are composed of the following:

Iota Phi Theta


Dr. Hugo A. Owens and then ODU President James V. Koch at the dedication of the Hugo A. Owens African American Cultural Center in 1991. (Photograph courtesy of University Archives, University Photograph Collection)


With specific focus on the six ODU Chapters of the "Divine Nine," as well as an emphasis on other campus African American civic and social organizations like the Hugo A. Owens African American Cultural Center, this year's exhibit enhances knowledge about the ODU African American fraternal, social, and civic communities in conjunction with ODU's ongoing 75th anniversary celebration.



Currently at ODU, six of the "Divine Nine" have chapters on campus. As illustrated in the following table, those six chapters include three fraternities and three sororities.

Divine Nine Frat/Soror
ODU Chapter
Chapter Founded
April 24, 1977
Tau Lambda
Fall 1983
March 17, 1974
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
March 20, 1982
November 15, 1987

However, no discussion of the "Divine Nine" would be inclusive without mentioning the National Pan-Hellenic Council, formed in 1930. The stated purpose and mission of the organization in 1930 was “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.” Early in 1937, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois and became known as “The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Incorporated.”

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While the role of religious organizations in fostering community has been clearly recognized, the extent of the influence of other African American fraternal, social, and civic organizations have not been fully appreciated in the context of their role as a community builders. This exhibit attempts to place one campus community's organizations within the context of their larger dynamic African American student body presence.