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

Kappa Alpha Psi 

Kappa Alpha Psi shield

The Gamma Xi chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi was chartered at Maryland State College on April 2, 1949 with 15 members. Byron K. Armstrong, a founder of Kappa Alpha Psi, was a member of the faculty in Princess Anne. The current chapter, Pi Nu, was established at UMES in December 2008.

Community service efforts through the years include blood drives for the Red Cross, highway cleanups, seminars on drug and alcohol abuse, canned food drives and the introduction of the Kappa League and Student Survival. 

In 2009, the fraternity partnered with UMES and established the Kappa Alpha Psi Diamond endowment, pledging $10,000 to provide scholarships to students. The chapter has also sponsored such social events as the Kappa Roundball Classic, the Kappa Cruise and the Kappa Kabaret.

Kappa Alpha Psi in 2011 celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding at Indiana University, where Watson Diggs and nine other African-American men are credited with forming the fraternity that drew inspiration from by two similar organizations at Howard University, an historically black institution in Washington.

Kappa Alpha Psi members were motivated to bond after encountering racial prejudice and discrimination at the predominantly white institution, where they were discouraged from participating in extracurricular activities.

Initially organized as the “Alpha Omega” club the previous year, the group formed a full-fledged fraternity in January 1911, when it was initially known as Kappa Alpha Nu. By 1915, the fraternity modified its name to its current moniker to silence racists who derisively referred to the group using a common epithet.

Fraternity colors are crimson and cream and it embraced the motto: “achievement in every field of human endeavor.” Its symbols are a diamond and a scroll. The flower is a red carnation. The Scroller Club was created after World War I to solidify a pledge program for the organization. Another distinguishing aspect is members’ skilled use of the “Kappa Kane” in step (synchronized dancing) routines.

The fraternity has nearly 300 campus chapters as well as hundreds of alumni chapters in America, Asia and Europe. Leaders estimate 150,000 members have been initiated since the fraternity’s founding.

Civil Rights Movement and activism:

Like many of its counterparts, Kappa Alpha Psi engaged in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, inspired by members such as the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Tom Bradley, who would go on to be elected mayor of Los Angeles. Kappa Alpha Psi members are credited with taking a leadership role in advocating the passage of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Anti Poverty Programs, including the Economic Opportunity Act.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Kappa Alpha Psi members supported the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and organized a 4,000-member march to the South African embassy to protest apartheid in 1985.


Kappa Alpha Psi is widely known for its Guide Right Program, created in 1921, a mentoring program that targets high school students that fraternity members hope to inspire to become successful, productive adults. The program paved the way in the 1960s for the formation of the Kappa League, which helps young men develop critical thinking and leadership skills The Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation formed in 1981 to raise funds and award grants for scholarships, endowments and undergraduate housing.

In July 2005, the fraternity partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, holding a number of golf tournaments in its name. In partnership with churches and local communities, it supported the hospital with a check for over $1 million. Additionally, by establishing the Achievement Academy, it seeks to increase the numbers of its fraternity members in the nation’s most exclusive graduate schools.

Members of Note:

  • Arthur Ashe – pioneering professional tennis player and Civil Rights activist
  • Cedric the Entertainer
  • Wilt Chamberlain – athlete, member Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
  • Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. – attorney
  • Congressman John Conyers
  • Bernard A. Harris Jr. – first African American to walk in space
  • Robert L. Johnson – founder, Black Entertainment Television
  • John Taylor Williams – president, Maryland State College, (1947-1970)
  • Gerald Irons – Oakland Raiders football player and UMES alumnus
  • Sylvester “Swifty” Polk – alumnus and Maryland State College football star
  • Johnny Sample – New York Jets Super Bowl III champion and UMES alumnus
  • Clifton "Cappy" Anderson - assistant football coach - UMES

-- Frederick Douglass Library archives staff

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