Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc: An Early Advocate of Black History

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has always valued the history and culture of people of African ancestry on the African continent and throughout the diaspora. Since our inception in 1906, we have consistently advocated for the discovery, preservation, and promotion of our past. Our brothers have been at the forefront of correcting the errors, omissions, and distortions about our past, while telling of our trials and tribulations to the nation and to the world.

Drs. Carter G. Woodson, an Omega, and Jesse E. Moorland, an Alpha—the founders of Black History Month—incorporated The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) on October 2, 1915 in Washington, DC. Brother Dr. George Cleveland Hall was the first president of ASALH. Eleven Alpha men, more than any other fraternity, have served as ASALH presidents.

Before the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926 (now Black History Month), Alpha Phi Alpha promoted the study of black history with a regular column in the Sphinx Magazine. One hundred years ago, in 1917, the General Convention, meeting in Philadelphia, called on each chapter within the fraternity to appoint a historian to pursue research and discussion of black history.

We have a legacy to uphold in observing Black History Month. Brother Dr. Charles H. Wesley, past general president and national historian, who also served as executive director of ASALH reminded us that the purpose of Black History Month (Negro History Week) is “… to change the image of the Black Americans through history. The current consideration of the advancement made by Negroes in political life and in civic activities should be paralleled by the view of his experiences in our past.”

As part of Alpha’s advocacy and action initiative, we must therefore make certain that our past is recorded accurately and completely, that it is reflected in every area of American life, and especially that it is competently taught in our schools at every level. We cannot assume that because there is general recognition of Black History Month, even from the White House, our history and heritage is well known and respected. As Brother Dr. Martin Luther Jr. reminded us: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


Robert L. Harris, Jr. National Historian
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
ASALH National President, 1991-92
February, 2017