National History Overview

Kappa Alpha Psi is one of the oldest collegiate greek-letter fraternity with a predominantly African American membership. Since its founding in 1911 at Indiana University, the fraternity has never limited membership based on color, creed or national origin. The fraternity has over 105,000 members with 600 undergraduate and alumni chapters in every state of the United States and international chapters in the United Kingdom, Germany, Korea, Japan, the West Indies and South Africa. The Fraternity is the first NPHC member to have been incorporated as a national body documented by the Kappa Alpha Psi Mid West Provinces Newsletter.

The president of the national fraternity title is known as the Grand Polemarch, who assigns a Province Polemarch for each of the twelve provinces (districts/regions) of the nation. The fraternity has many notable members recognized as leaders in the arts, athletics, business, civil rights, education, government, and science sectors at the local, national and international level. The Kappa Alpha Psi Journal is the official magazine of the fraternity since 1914. Frank M. Summers was the magazine’s first editor and later on became the 14th Grand Polemarch.

Kappa Alpha Psi is a major contributor in the fields of political, social, cultural and scholastic achievement. The fraternity sponsors programs providing community service, social welfare and academic scholarship through the Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation and is a supporter of the United Negro College Fund and Habitat for Humanity. Kappa Alpha Psi is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). The fraternity is the first predominantly African American Greek-letter society founded west of the Appalachian Mountains still in existence, and is known for its “cane stepping” in NPHC organized step shows.

Kappa Alpha Psi was founded on the campus of Indiana University on January 5, 1911. The Fraternity’s fundamental purpose is achievement.

Our Founders

The men who founded Kappa Alpha Psi, and were dedicated to the principles of achievement through a truly democratic fraternity are:

  • Elder Watson Diggs
  • Ezra Dee Alexander
  • Byron Kenneth Armstrong
  • Henry Turner Asher
  • Marcus Peter Blakemore
  • Paul Waymond Caine
  • George Wesley Edmonds
  • Guy Levis Grant
  • Edward Giles Irvin
  • John Milton Lee

diggs alex arm ash blak cai edm grnt irv lee

 

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The founders endeavored to establish the fraternity with a strong foundation before embarking on plans of expansion. By the end of the first year, the ritual was completed and a design for the coat of arms and motto had begun.

The fraternity may have begun in 1903 on the Indiana University campus, but there were too few registrants to assure continuing organization. In that year a club was formed called Alpha Kappa Nu, but the club disappeared after a short time. There is no record of any similar organization at Indiana until the fraternity was founded as Kappa Alpha Nu on the night of January 5, 1911 by ten African-American college students.

During this time there were very few African-American students at the predominately white campus at Bloomington, Indiana and they were a small minority due to the era of Jim Crow laws. Many African-American students rarely saw each other on campus and were discouraged or prohibited from attending student functions and extra-curricular activities by white college administrators and fellow students. African-American students were denied membership on athletic teams with the exception of track and field. The racial prejudice and discrimination encountered by the founders strengthened their bond of friendship and growing interest in starting a social group. From the beginning, the founders’ goal was to create a fraternity founded on Christian ideals and for the purpose of achievement regardless of a person’s race or social class.

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