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

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha shieldThe Alpha Omicron chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha was established at Maryland State College on April 7, 1951.

Well known for raising funds for scholarships and tutoring at local schools, the sorority partners with the Big Sister/Little Sister program in working with local high school girls. Members also hold annual social activities like a ball and Alpha Kappa Alpha week.

During AKA week over the years, the chapter has celebrated by holding seminars, such as “Apathy on Campus” and “Men Speak Out,” and parties marking their chapter anniversary. Another popular activity is a fashion show with participants from among the fraternities and sororities on campus.

Alpha Kappa Alpha was established at Howard University Jan. 15, 1908 as the first Greek-letter sorority created by black college women. The “A” and “K” are the first letters of the three Greek words that form the motto – “by culture and by merit.” Salmon pink and apple green, the sorority’s colors, represent an abundance of life, womanliness, fidelity and love. The ivy leaf is its insignia and a year after forming members started an annual tradition of the planting ivy around the Howard campus in the nation’s capital.

A dispute in 1912-1913 led to a split among sorority members and the formation of Delta Sigma Theta by Myra Davis and 21 others who left AKA. Nellie Quander, a previous graduate, is credited with holding the original sorority together.

Civil Rights and activism:

Initially, the sorority focused on cultural presentations for the public and volunteer activities in Washington D.C. but then shifted to marching in the suffragette movement. It began a history of civil rights and community activism.

During the Great Migration exodus by blacks from the Southern states (1910-1930), Alpha Kappa Alpha members working in the Travelers Aid Society helped them adjust to northern life. Founders also were leaders in the YWCA and in the Howard University campus chapter of the NAACP, where founder Margaret Flagg Holmes collaborated with NAACP leader W.E.B. Du Bois. During the Great Depression, Alpha Kappa Alpha worked on the Mississippi Health Project to provide education and library books to rural and poverty stricken populations of Mississippi.

AKA threw its support for legislation integrating black women into the Reserves Corps of the Navy also known as WAVES during World War II and following the war, the sorority joined like-minded groups in support of education, ending the poll tax, funding for poor urban areas and equal employment opportunities for black veterans.


During the Baby Boomer era, the sorority embraced  four major programs: scholarship, undergraduate housing, health and social action. Members also focused on reading and heritage programs. More recently the focus has been on Partnership in Mathematics and Science (PIMS) Institutes for students and educators.

Alpha Kappa Alpha currently supports the following initiatives: Emerging Young Leaders; health; global poverty; economic security for women; social justice and human rights; and a finally the Internal Leadership Training for External Service.

Members of note:

  • Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke – first black California woman elected to Congress
  • Angie Brooks – first female president of the United Nations General Assembly
  • Cicily Daniels – actress, singer
  • Toni Morrison – Nobel laureate in literature.
  • Phylicia Rashad – Tony award-winning actress from The Cosby Show
  • Tiffany Monique Riddick – background vocalist for Beyoncé
  • Sonia Sanchez – poet, playwright and educator
  • Septima Poinsette Clark – education activist, mentor to Rosa Park

-- Frederick Douglass Library archives staff

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