A quick guide to the Divine Nine

Historically Black sororities and fraternities, founded mainly at HBCUs, began as a way to connect and build support networks in the face of exclusion from predominantly white Greek-letter organizations

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A quick guide to the Divine Nine
Members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. gather for a photo at the 60th Anniversary of the March On Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on August 26, 2023.

Photograph by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The legacy of historically Black sororities and fraternities is rich, dating back to the start of the 20th century. The groups, founded mainly at HBCUs, began as a way to connect and build support networks in the face of exclusion from predominantly white Greek-letter organizations. Four sororities and five fraternities, known collectively as the “Divine Nine,” make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Each of these organizations has its own colors, symbols, and calls that you’ll hear often during social gatherings, but all were established with the core value of uplifting the Black community through education, economic empowerment, and social change. The National Pan-Hellenic Council of Greater Atlanta oversees 22 chapters representing schools across the country.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Founded: January 15, 1908
Motto: “By Culture and by Merit”
Famous members: Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Kamala Harris, Maya Angelou, Bernice King
Causes:
Empowering families, building economic wealth, enhancing the environment, advocating for social justice, and uplifting the local community
Fun fact:
The oldest Greek-letter organization established by college-educated Black women

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Founded: December 4, 1906
Motto: “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All”
Famous members: Martin Luther King Jr., Raphael Warnock, Maynard Jackson Jr., Andrew Young, Thurgood Marshall
Causes:
Voter engagement, mentoring, education, and elder care
Fun fact:
The oldest intercollegiate historically Black fraternity in the country

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Founded: January 13, 1913
Motto: “Intelligence Is the Torch of Wisdom”
Famous members: Keisha Lance Bottoms, Pinky Cole, Aretha Franklin, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Cicely Tyson
Causes:
Education, health, international development, and strengthening of the Black family
Fun fact:
The largest Black Greek-letter sorority in the world

Iota Phi Theta Fraternity
Founded: September 19, 1963
Motto: “Building a Tradition, Not Resting upon One!”
Famous members: Spencer Christian, Bobby Rush, Devon Still, Vaughn Booker, Kirby Wilson
Causes:
Health, literacy, domestic abuse, and human trafficking
Fun fact:
The youngest of the Divine Nine and the last to join the National Pan-Hellenic Council

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
Founded: January 5, 1911
Motto: “Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor”
Famous members: Ralph Abernathy, Kasim Reed, LeBron James, Johnnie Cochran, Colin Kaepernick
Causes:
Community service, social welfare, and academic scholarship
Fun fact:
Members have carried and performed with canes since the fraternity began.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Founded: November 17, 1911
Motto: “Friendship Is Essential to the Soul”
Famous members: Michael Jordan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Harvey, Langston Hughes
Causes:
Voter registration, fatherhood, mentoring, literacy, and diversification of STEM
Fun fact:
Headquartered in Decatur

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
Founded: January 9, 1914
Motto: “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity”
Famous members: John Lewis, Al Roker, Harry Belafonte, Terrence Howard, Jerry Rice
Causes:
Community service, mentoring, education, and improving health outcomes
Fun fact:
First and only Black Greek-letter fraternity to have a member’s face on a U.S. coin: inventor George Washington Carver

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
Founded: November 12, 1922
Motto: “Greater Service, Greater Progress”
Famous members: Fantasia, Kelly Price, Hattie McDaniel, MC Lyte, Carmelita Jeter
Causes:
Women’s wellness, maternal and infant health, and swimming
Fun fact:
The only of the four sororities founded at a predominantly white college, Butler University in Indianapolis 

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
Founded: January 16, 1920
Motto: “A Community-Conscious, Action-Oriented Organization”
Famous members: Dionne Warwick, Zora Neale Hurston, Chaka Khan, Anita Hill,
Vivica A. Fox
Causes:
Youth, education, volunteerism, and social and civic change legislation
Fun fact:
In 1948, it became the first Greek-letter organization to charter a chapter in Africa. 

This article appears in our October 2023 issue.

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