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

Omega Psi Phi

Omega Psi Phi shield

The Pi Epsilon chapter of Omega Psi Phi was established at Maryland State College in 1948. The chapter quickly became known for hosting its annual talent hunt as early as 1951. That year trophies were distributed and a raffle held for a Majestic radio. The chapter’s 1952 Achievement Week featured prominent guest speakers, including journalist P. B. Young as well as radio broadcasts. Also in the 1950s, the Omega Men rushed to the aid of  a local public school in Princess Anne to help with a survey for a new drainage project, saving the community $500.

Omega Psi Phi at UMES has hosted numerous functions over the years, including a Big Brother’s Day full of activities for the community’s youth. Fundraising focused on the United Negro College Fund and doing community service in Salisbury.

Holding seminars on alcohol awareness, women’s health, and cooking, participating in community service, a partnership with the Big Brother organization, and ushering for the UMES Dinner Theatre are other key ways the “Ques” enhance their community.

Omega Psi Phi was founded Nov. 17, 1911 at Howard University, the first black Greek letter fraternity established at a historically black institution. Inspired by the initials of a Greek phrase meaning “friendship is essential to the soul,” the Omega Men were not immediately accepted as a national organization by the University Council. By 1914 the fraternity was incorporated in Washington, D.C. Members live by the principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift. The fraternity’s colors are royal purple and old gold; its symbols include the Greek lamp and a bulldog.

Civil Rights movement and activism:

Inspired by historian Carter G. Woodson, Omega Psi Phi embraced National Negro Achievement Week in 1927 as an annual observance and it eventually evolved into Black History Month. The fraternity supported the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in the late 1920s and crusaded to uphold the rights of African Americans during the Great Depression. It made contributions to the International Brotherhood of the Red Caps and the NAACP in the late 1930s and members championed the Southern Negro Congress as well as social action programs such as voter education, registration and mobilization.

During the Civil Rights movement, members participated in sit-ins and other peaceful demonstrations. In the 1976 presidential election, Omega Men embraced “Operation Big Vote,” which encouraged blacks to go to the polls. Fraternity members have played important leadership roles in the United Negro College Fund, the National Urban League, Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition and lent support to Jesse Jackson’s campaign for president in 1988.

Current programs/projects:

Members promote the study of African American life and recognize those who have made a difference in improving the quality of life for black Americans during the fraternity’s annual Achievement Week. It sponsors a national high school essay contest and also provides financial aid, often linked to the long-standing talent hunt program. Social action programs the fraternity supports include voter registration, education and "getting out the vote,” Assault on Illiteracy and fundraisers for charities such as American Diabetes Association, United Way and Sickle Cell Anemia. Members also do similar projects overseas.

Members of note:

  • Tom Joyner – radio talk show host and philanthropist
  • William “Count” Basie – internationally known jazz pianist, composer, arranger and band leader
  • Gen. Charles Bolden, retired – space shuttle astronaut, NASA administrator
  • Wiley Branton –  attorney of the "Little Rock Nine" and former dean of Howard University's law school
  • Bill Cosby. – entertainer and philanthropist
  • Langston Hughes – poet, short story writer and playwright of the Harlem renaissance era
  • Jesse Jackson – civil rights activist
  • Michael Jordan – entrepreneur, athlete, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member
  • Daniel Ridout – alumnus (Princess Anne Academy - 1918) and composer of the UMES alma mater
  • Charles Drew – surgeon and pioneer in the use of blood plasma
  • Carter G. Woodson – preeminent historian, educator and author who founded Negro History Week - now Black History Month

-- Frederick Douglass Library archives staff

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