University of Maryland Eastern Shore The 125th Anniversary
125th Anniversary
"Celebrating the Journey: The 125th Anniversary of UMES" 1886-2011

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha shieldThe Delta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was established at Maryland State College on May 27, 1950 to promote community service.

An issue of a campus newsletter, the Maroon and Gray, once described Alpha Phi Alpha’s annual ‘Education Week’ as stressing the importance of higher education, which included an annual Education Assembly program and High School Day where tours of the campus were provided along with a scholarship check to a worthy student.

Tutoring high school students and helping to feed the homeless are examples of the fraternity’s community service projects. Members are also engaged in national Alpha Phi Alpha initiatives, including “Go-To-High-School-Go-To-College” and Voter Registration. They also are involved in mentoring, sex education and crisis intervention.

Founded Dec. 4, 1906 at predominantly white Cornell University, what began as a Social Studies Club evolved into a fraternity to provide support and friendship for Cornell’s African-American students.

Declaring a motto of “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” the seven “jewels” of this fraternity as the founders were known, upheld the principles of manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind.

Symbolized by the Great Sphinx of Giza, their pledge group is known as the Sphinx Club. The fraternity's primary publication also bears the title of The Sphinx. Its colors are black and old gold; the yellow rose is its flower.

Civil rights and activism:

Launching its “Go-to-High-School, Go-to-College” program in 1919 proved to be one of fraternity members' most significant campaigns for the education of African Americans. Other past campaigns include a 1933 “Education and Citizenship” effort to educate the African American community on its rights, including registering to vote.

Taking an active part in the Civil Rights movement, members supported quality education, equal pay, human rights and the work of the NAACP.


Engaging in special efforts like the Sankofa Project, members aim to provide mentoring for African-American males ages three-to-18 for their physical, spiritual, educational and emotional needs. They sponsor field trips for graduating seniors to various Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The national fraternity's present-day partnerships include mentoring organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, the March of Dimes, the Head Start program and Habitat for Humanity.

Project Alpha is one of the fraternity's initiatives to educate African American males ages 12-15 on sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and fatherhood. It also provides them with tools for relationship building, empowerment and self-esteem.

Members of note:

  • Frederick Douglass – abolitionist, author and orator.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois – historian, sociologist, author, and equal rights campaigner.
  • Duke Ellington – jazz musician.
  • Congressman William Gray – majority whip for the Democratic Party in 1989.
  • William P. Hytche – president, UMES (1975-1997).
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – civil rights activist, Baptist minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
  • Thurgood Marshall – first black U.S. Supreme Court justice.
  • Jesse Owens – Olympic gold medalist in track.
  • Art Shell – former National Football League player and head coach, UMES alumnus.
  • Keenan Ivory Wayans – entertainer.

-- Frederick Douglass Library archives staff

"Celebrating the Journey: The 125th Anniversary of the
University of Maryland Eastern Shore" 1886-2011