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Alpha Phi Alpha

A Legacy of Greatness, The Demands of Transcendence

edited by Gregory S. Parks and Stefan M. Bradley

Publication Year: 2012

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks. In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. vii-viii

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Editor's Note

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pp. ix

Th is book was neither researched nor written under the auspices of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., its Corporate Office, or its Board of Directors. Although the Corporate Office of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., was helpful in terms of sharing documents and archival material with the contributors to this book, no official permission was sought by the editors, and no permission was granted ...

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pp. xi-xv

When I was asked to write the foreword for this book dealing with the organizational identity of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., I was humbled and reflective. I thought about my time and leadership within the fraternity and my similar experiences in state and federal government. These experiences provided me with the opportunity to evaluate different ways of organizing ...

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pp. 1-6

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated—the sole intercollegiate black Greek-letter organization (BGLO) to be founded at an Ivy League institution—had its beginnings at the turn of the twentieth century at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. At the nadir of American race relations and just a year aft er the Niagara Conference (the precursor to the NAACP), seven young black ...

PART 1. Organizational Identity: Framework, Construction, and Projection

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pp. 7-8

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1. What We Mean by Organizational Identity

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pp. 9-22

An organization’s identity is defined as the set of characteristics that are central, distinctive, and enduring to its members.1 Th e construct traces its roots to social psychologists John Turner and Henri Tajfel, whose work on group dynamics in the late 1970s and 1980s became the cornerstone of social identity theory.2 One of the critical insights from Turner and Tajfel’s work is the suggestion that an ...

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2. Defining the "Alpha" Identity

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pp. 23-50

What is Alpha? And inasmuch as Alpha the organization is defined by the sum total of its membership, what is an Alpha? Th e word alpha is defined as the beginning, the first.1 It is also the highest ranked or most dominant individual of one’s sex—for example, the alpha male.2 Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson’s work on alpha males in the corporate setting is instructive in this ...

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3. The Complexities of Alpha Phi Alpha's Contemporary Image Projection

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pp. 51-64

As delineated in the first two chapters of this volume, organizations—like people—have identities. These identities are fashioned from a host of elements and may be understood via a variety of methodologies. Fraternal organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha are no exception. Th e ritual, songs, poems, aims, motto, mission statement, history, and lived and shared experiences of members help ...

PART 2. Men Who Shaped the Identity

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pp. 65-66

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4. Progenitors of Progress: A Brief History of the Jewels of Alpha Phi Alpha

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pp. 67-109

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., ranks among the most enduring and influential black organizations in the nation and perhaps the world. What started as a study group transformed into an entity that has provided leadership on issues of education, politics, and the well-being of African Americans. Th e vision for such an entity began with the founders of the fraternity. Th e Jewels (a ...

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5. Those Who Carried the Torch: Th e General Presidents of Alpha Phi Alpha

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pp. 93-186

In providing a thorough analysis of an organization’s identity, an examination of its leadership is critical. Th is chapter examines the past general presidents of Alpha Phi Alpha and the role they played in shaping and defining the Alpha identity. From Moses A. Morrison, elected in 1908, to Darryl R. Matthews Sr., whose term in office ended 100 years aft er Morrison’s election, thirty-two ...

PART 3. Internal Mechanisms that Define the Identity

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pp. 187-188

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6. The Quest for Excellence: Reviewing Alpha’s Legacy of Academic Achievement

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pp. 189-223

Since its inception in 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has made scholarship and high academic performance one of its cornerstones.1 In fact, the men who would become the fraternity’s founders first began meeting casually to support and encourage one another in their pursuit of an Ivy League education. Since then, academic excellence and exemplary scholarship have been intentional ..

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7. “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” Authenticating the Racial, Religious, and Masculine Dimensions of Brotherhood within Alpha Phi Alpha

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pp. 207-230

Despite the interest in Greek life,1 there is still limited knowledge about the experiences and treatment of organizational members who do not fit the traditional norms of the group.2 As a result, an assumption is made that these members’ experiences are similar to those of members who do fit the traditional norms. To fill this gap in knowledge, this chapter investigates the ...

PART 4. External Mechanisms that Define the Identity

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pp. 231-232

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8. Alpha Phi Alpha, the Fight for Civil Rights, and the Shaping of Public Policy

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pp. 233-262

This chapter examines Alpha Phi Alpha’s involvement in the twentieth-century black freedom struggle. Alpha’s role in this phenomenon consisted of two distinct (and sometimes interconnected) dynamics. First, Alpha Phi Alpha as an organization promoted important civil rights initiatives. Th e fraternity’s historic “Education for Citizenship” campaign (“A Voteless People Is a Hopeless ...

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9. Setting an Example: Th e Philanthropic Contributions of Alpha Phi Alpha

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pp. 263-276

When most Americans, regardless of racial background, think about philanthropy, they tend to visualize wealthy white men—the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Fords of the world. Too oft en, African Americans are seen as the recipients of philanthropy rather than the givers. And in fact, when asked if they are philanthropic, many black people say no, considering their giving to ...

PART 5. The Processes that Shape the Identity

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pp. 277-278

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10. The Harms and Hazards of Hazing: Medical, Sociocultural, and Legal Perspectives

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pp. 279-312

Arguably, the most prominent aspect of black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) in the past twenty-five years is the harrowing tragedy of hazing incidents that have cost the lives of college students. Since 1989, at least five young men and women have died as a result of hazing gone awry as they attempted to join BGLOs.1 These deaths, of course, are the pinnacle of the spectacle; in ...

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11. Hazing and Pledging in Alpha Phi Alpha: An Organizational Behavior Perspective

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pp. 313-350

For decades, organizational behavior (OB) scholars have researched issues pertaining to a variety of organizations (e.g., private, for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental agencies). Their research findings have undoubtedly contributed to our knowledge and understanding of the complex dynamics of organizations. However, OB scholars have made few attempts to study the complexities of black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs). In fact, the chapter by eminent ...

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pp. 351-356

Without question, seven visionary men founded Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity on a set of noble ideals. Over time, scores of men have shepherded the fraternity along a path of accomplishment and contribution to broader society. Th e sons of Alpha, too, have added greatly to the fraternity’s legacy. Th e crucial question, however, is not what Alpha was in 1906 or 1956. Rather, the question ...

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pp. 357-358

Of the various books we, the editors of this volume, have written and edited, this one filled us with the most angst. We are both deeply committed to and active in our beloved fraternity—Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. As such, on the one hand, we wanted to be accurate and fair and guard the fraternity’s actual “secrets.” Even more, we wanted to do no actual harm ...

Appendix A. Alpha Phi Alpha General Secretaries and Executive Directors

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pp. 359

Appendix B. Editors in Chief of The Sphinx

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pp. 360

Appendix C. Prominent Alpha Phi Alpha Members

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pp. 361-376

List of Contributors

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pp. 377-384


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pp. 385-394

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134574
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134215

Illustrations: 13 figures, 11 tables
Publication Year: 2012