The Fallacy of the Black “Greek” Part I: Origins

northwestern divine nine

If anyone has seen films such as School Daze (1988), Stomp the Yard (2007) and the television show A Different World (1987–1993) they would be familiar with what is known as “Black Greek” letter organizations (BGLOs) or “Black Greek” letter fraternities and sororities that are generally associated with historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs. These organizations comprise the National Pan-Hellenic Council. This council is also known as the “The Divine Nine.” The following names are the “Black Greek” letter fraternities and sororities that makeup the so-called Divine Nine.

  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University

Now any intelligent Black person would wonder why a group of Black people would want to call themselves “Greeks” and create something that gives the impression of being an intentional parallel of something the dominant society has been doing far longer than the recorded date of 1906 which was the birthdate of the first “Black Greek” letter organization.

Contrary to what Black “Greeks” tell you the fraternity and sorority system as it relates to colleges and universities has nothing to do with ancient Kemet (Reads: Egypt) or Greek culture for that matter. Now they will say that the ancient Greeks stole the concept from the residents of ancient Kemet. But in actuality the whole concept originated far latter in history and on the North American continent. A student named John Heath in the year 1776 who attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia formed a student organization founded on the Greek moto Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης which when translated means “love of learning is the guide of life”. Today this organization is known as Phi Beta Kappa ΦBK or the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Before people get upset let me make it clear that I am not saying the Greeks (and latter the Romans) did not “steal” any concepts from Kemet because everyone knows that Greece (and Rome) “stole” from all of the groups they conquered in some form or fashion. However it must be noted that the idea behind the name fraternity and sorority is a universal concept. First the name fraternity is derived from the Latin fraternitatem which means greek-orgs“brotherhood”. The same for sorority it is taken from sororitas that denotes “sisterhood”. The notion of likeminded individuals grouping together for some purpose is a globe encompassing idea and can be found throughout the annals of history. There is nothing inherently unique about Black Greek organizations and they are not on some extraordinary mission to reclaim some stolen practice of their African ancestors. It’s more like “White people won’t let us play with them so we will copy them and start our own Greek letter organizations.”

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The Fallacy of the Black “Greek” Part I: Origins

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