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Alpha Kappa Alpha
The official crest of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Founded January 15, 1908 (1908-01-15) (102 years ago)[1]
Howard University
Emphasis Service
Scope International
The Bahamas
United States Virgin Islands
South Korea
Motto By Merit and Culture[1]
Colors      Salmon Pink

     Apple Green[1]

Symbol Ivy leaf[1]
Flower Pink Tea Rose[1]
Publication Ivy Leaf magazine[1]
Chapters 900[2]
Headquarters 5656 S. Stony Island Ave.
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Alpha Kappa Alpha (ΆΚΆ) is the first Greek-lettered sorority established and incorporated by African American college women. The sorority was founded on January 15, 1908, at Howard University in Washington, D.C., by a group of nine students, led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle. Forming a sorority broke barriers for African American women in areas where little power or authority existed due to a lack of opportunities for minorities and women in the early twentieth century.[3] Alpha Kappa Alpha was incorporated on January 29, 1913.

Consisting of college-educated women of African, Caucasian, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic descent, the sorority serves through a membership of more than 250,000 women in over 900 chapters in the United States and several other countries.[4] Women may join through undergraduate chapters at a college or university, or through a graduate chapter after acquiring a college degree.[5]

After the organization's establishment over a century ago, Alpha Kappa Alpha has helped to improve social and economic conditions through community service programs. Members have improved education through independent initiatives, contributed to community-building by creating programs and associations, such as the Mississippi Health Clinic, and influenced federal legislation by Congressional lobbying through the National Non-Partisan Lobby on Civil and Democratic Rights. The sorority works with communities through service initiatives and progressive programs relating to education, family, health, and business.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). The current International President is Barbara A. McKinzie, and the sorority's document and pictorial archives are located at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.



Main Hall and Miner Hall in 1868. Miner Hall is located to the left.[6] Miner Hall was the site of Alpha Kappa Alpha's founding on January 15, 1908.[7] The building was demolished in 1961.[8]

Beginnings: 1907–1912

In spring 1907, Ethel Hedgeman led efforts to create a sisterhood at Howard University. Howard faculty member Ethal Robinson encouraged Hedgeman by relating her own recollections of sorority life at the Women's College at Brown University.[9][10] Hedgeman was also inspired by her future husband George Lyle, who was a charter member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity's Beta chapter at Howard in 1907.[11] To implement her idea, Hedgeman began recruiting interested classmates during the summer of 1907.[12]

Eventually, nine women including Hedgeman were instrumental in organizing Alpha Kappa Alpha in fall 1908.[9][12] With Hedgeman serving as the temporary chairperson,[10] the women wrote the sorority's constitution, devised the motto and favorite colors, and named the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.[9] Later in 1909, seven sophomore honor students expressed interest and were accepted without initiation.[9][13] The first initiation was held in a wing of Miner Hall on Howard University on February 11, 1909.[14][15] On May 25, 1909, Alpha Kappa Alpha held the first "Ivy Week", a celebration which included planting ivy at Miner Hall.[16]

Cession and formation of Delta Sigma Theta: 1912–1913

A 1921 Certificate of Membership from the Gamma Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign[15]

At the time, Alpha Kappa Alpha existed as one chapter at Howard University with a ritual and sponsored social events. No plan of nationalizing or incorporating the organization existed.[17] Alpha Kappa Alpha continued to grow at Howard. In October 11, 1912, twenty-two members were initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha. Seven officers were elected: Myra Davis Hemmings, president; Ethel Cuff Black, vice-president, Edith Mott Young, secretary; Jessie McGuire Dent, corresponding secretary, Winona Cargile Alexander, custodian; Frederica Chase Dodd, sergeant-at-arms, and Pauline Oberdorfer Minor was the treasurer.[18][19] The twenty-two were dismayed at progress and wanted to reorganize the sorority.[20][21]

   Αlpha Kappa Alpha Officer Titles[1]   
"Basileus" President
"Anti-Basileus" Vice-President
"Grammateus" Recording Secretary
"Anti-Grammateus" Assistant Secretary
"Pecunious Grammateus" Financial Secretary
"Tamiouchos" Treasurer
"Epistoleus" Corresponding Secretary
"Hodegos" Hostess
"Philacter" Sergeant at Arms

According to Delta Sigma Theta historian Paula Giddings, the group of members wanted to establish a national organization, enlarge the scope of the sorority's activities, change its name and symbols, and be more politically oriented.[21] When Nellie Quander, a graduate member, heard about changing the sorority name, she disagreed and gave the other women a deadline and an ultimatum to stop the efforts to reorganize the sorority.[22] However, the twenty-two declined and instead formed Delta Sigma Theta on January 13, 1913.[23]

Later Quander, along with five other sorority members, led an initiative to incorporate Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority as a perpetual body on January 29, 1913.[14] The organization was nationally incorporated in Washington, D.C., as a non-profit under the name Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated on January 29, 1913.[24] During the same year the sorority began using Greek names for officers.[25]

A close up of a Alpha Phi Alpha delegate badge from the 23rd Boulé. The tri-convention—consisting of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, and Kappa Alpha Psi — was held from December 27, through 31, 1940 in Kansas City, Missouri.[15][26]

Expansion and initial implementation of programs: 1913–1940

Alpha Kappa Alpha continued to grow nationally. A second chapter at the University of Chicago was chartered in fall 1914.[27] The sorority played an active role in voicing concerns of the day. The women participated in the 1913 Women's Suffrage March.[28] In addition, Alpha Kappa Alpha helped to support members by providing scholarship funds for school and foreign studies.[29] Alpha Kappa Alpha began to unite members at the annual Boulé, the sorority's governing body.[1] The sorority's pledge was written by Grace Edwards and was adopted by the 1920 Boulé.[30] In addition, the sorority's crest was designed by Phyllis Wheatley Waters and accepted in the same Boulé.[30] A year later, at the 1921 Boulé, the Ivy Leaf was designated as "the official organ of Alpha Kappa Alpha," and Founders' Week, paying honor to ΆKΆ's founders was established.[30][31] Pearls were first introduced to the sorority in the same year.[30] The sorority membership pin was accepted in the following Boulé in Kansas City, Missouri.[32] At the 1947 Boulé, pins for honorary members were designed and approved.[33]

On May 10, 1935, Alpha Kappa Alpha, along with the fraternities Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi and sororities Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta, formed the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) at Howard University.[34] Consisting of nine predominately black fraternities and sororities, NPHC promotes interaction through forums, meetings, and other mediums for the exchange of information, and engages in cooperative programming and initiatives through various activities and functions.[34]

A 1934 issue of Ivy Leaf, Alpha Kappa Alpha's official organ[1]

Throughout the Great Migration, members assisted the Travelers Aid Society, to help thousands of Southern Blacks adjust to Northern society, find housing and navigate around the city. They also volunteered at the Freedman's Hospital.[31]

In April 1933, during the Great Depression, International President Ida Jackson visited All Saints Industrial School in Lexington, Mississippi. She found difficult conditions in the Mississippi Delta. Some of the teachers themselves did not have an education past the seventh grade. African Americans were trying to make a living sharecropping on plantation land as agricultural prices continued to fall.[35][36] In summer 1934, Ida Jackson initiated the Summer School for Rural Teachers to train future teachers. She worked with a total of 22 student teachers and 243 school children. In addition, she held night classes for 48 adults.[37] By obtaining 2600 books for the school's library, Jackson made it "the largest library owned by white or colored in all Holmes County."[37]

In summer 1938, Ida Jackson focused on poverty and established a regional health clinic. She had acquired $1,000 from the Boulé to fund the project in December 1935.[38] The clinic evolved into the Mississippi Health Project, with Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee appointed as the director.[38]

The Mississippi Health Project brought primary medical care to the rural Black population across the state for six summers.[39][40] The program has been recognized as the first mobile health clinic in the United States, assisting approximately 15,000 people in the Mississippi Delta.[41] The project was noted for helping to decrease cases diphtheria and smallpox in the region and to improve nutritional and dental practices throughout rural Mississippi.[42][43]

Dorothy Ferebee (center) and the Mississippi Health Project staff, 1937[39]

Led by incorporator Norma Elizabeth Boyd, the sorority created the National Non-Partisan Lobby on Civil and Democratic Rights (NPC) in 1938, later renamed the National Non-Partisan Council on Public Affairs. It was the first full-time congressional lobby for minority group civil rights.[42][44] Throughout the organization's life, the Non-Partisan Council worked with the NAACP, National Urban League, The United Office and Professional Workers of America, The National Association of Graduate Nurses, the American Federation of Churches, the Colored Women's Club, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Auxiliary, and the New York Voter's League.[45] The NPC was dissolved on July 15, 1948, by twelfth Supreme Basileus Edna Over Gray-Campbell.[44][44] A year later, Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first sorority to apply for life membership in the NAACP.[46]

To replace the NPC, in August 1945, Alpha Kappa Alpha established the American Council on Human Rights (ACHR). The council made recommendations to the government concerning civil rights legislation.[47] The ACHR was proposed at the 1946 Boulé.[47] In October 1946, Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first sorority to obtain observer status at the United Nations.[48] On January 15, 1948, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho sororities and Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Beta Sigma fraternities were charter members of the ACHR.[49] Kappa Alpha Psi later was included in March 1949.[50][51]

On September 1, 1945, Alpha Kappa Alpha established The National Health Office in New York City.[41] The National Health Office coordinated activities with local chapters and worked with the ACHC to promote health initiatives before Congress, increase the number of student nurses, and improve the state of health programs at historically Black Colleges and Universities.[52] The National Health Office was dissolved in 1951, as its goals were incorporated into the sorority's international program.[53]

"Women in Medicine" was the fourth pamphlet published in Alpha Kappa Alpha's The Heritage Series in 1971.[54]

Civil rights and educational training: 1950–1970

Throughout the fifties, sixties, and seventies, members helped to sponsor job training, reading enrichment, heritage and youth programs. By encouraging youth to improve math, science, and reading skills, the sorority continued a legacy of community service and pledged to enrich the lives of others. Financially, Alpha Kappa Alpha expanded funding for projects in 1953 through the creation and trademark of a fashion show called FashionettaTM.[33][55] Politically, ACHR continued lobbying for equality concerning civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s. According to Collier-Thomas, the ACHR drew attention to legislation concerning education, transportation, employment, and improving equality in the armed forces and public places.[56] The ACHR participated in filing civil rights cases in amicus curiae with Bolling v. Sharpe and 1954's Brown v. Board of Education.[57] However, as a whole, ACHR voted to dissolve operations in 1963.[57]

Alpha Kappa Alpha contributed programs for inner city youth by capitalizing on political gains in the White House. On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, which allowed the creation of the Job Corps.[58] The sorority wanted to operate a job training center for students. Led by president Julia Purnell, ΆKΆ negotiated with the Office of Economic Opportunity to operate a women's center from October 1964 to January 1965.[58] Alpha Kappa Alpha was awarded a US$4 million grant to operate the Cleveland Job Corps on February 12, 1965, becoming the first sorority to operate a federal job training center.[40][58]

Shown is a picture of the Lois Mailou Jones designed Founders' Memorial Window located in Rankin Chapel at Howard University.[59]

Beginning in 1965, the Cleveland Job Corps trained female high school dropouts, aged 16 to 21, with job and educational skills. In 1976, the Cleveland Job Corps accepted males.[40] The sorority operated the Cleveland Job Corps until 1995.[60]

The sorority educated the community through highlighting the accomplishments of notable individuals by publishing The Heritage Series between 1968 and 1972.[15] These pamphlets were a series of biographies of top African-American women. Altogether, the entire collection contained "Women in the Judiciary," "Women in Politics," "Women in Medicine," "Women in Business," and "Women in Dentistry."[61] Alpha Kappa Alpha also donated $20,000 for preserving Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth place in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early 1970s.[62] In 1978, during the sorority's seventieth anniversary, the Memorial Window at Howard University was dedicated to the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Surviving founders Lavinia Norman and Norma Boyd attended the celebration of unveiling the Memorial Window, designed by Lois Mailou Jones.[59]

Bridging towards the twenty-first century: 1980–2007

The Alpha Kappa Alpha banner that honorary member Mae Jemison carried to space in 1992. The banner is shown at the sorority's national headquarters in Chicago.[63][64]

Soon after the sorority's 75th anniversary, Alpha Kappa Alpha contributed funds to decrease Africa's poverty with the establishment of African Village Development Program (AVDP).[65] As a conjoint program with Africare, the sorority sought to decrease poverty in African villages.[40][65] In collaboration with the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH), the sorority built ten schools in South Africa after apartheid ended, and it donated computer technology to the region.[40][66]

Throughout the 1990s, the sorority continued to provide after-school mentoring programs, such as ON TRACK.[40] ON TRACK, an acronym which stands for "Organizing, Nurturing, Team building, Respecting, Achieving, Counseling and Knowing," was designed to help the progress of 20,000 third graders who were at-risk of failing their education.[67] Sponsored by Daimler Chrysler, ON TRACK was designated to "improve communication, academics, physical and emotional health, peer leadership, etiquette, and interpersonal relationships."[40][67] In addition, programs such as the Ivy Reading AKAdemy and Young Authors Program improved elementary reading comprehension skills, while P.I.M.S. highlighted programs in math and science.[40]

Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu addressing participants at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated's 98th National Founders Day in 2006. Then Alpha Kappa Alpha Executive Director Barbara McKinzie sits to the right.[68]

In 1999, the sorority adopted a strict anti-hazing policy which is against "underground hazing, financial hazing, pre-pledging, post-pledging and post-initiation pledging."[69] On September 9, 2002, 22 year-old Kristin High and 24 year-old Kenitha Saafir drowned at Dockweiler State Beach at the Pacific Ocean on a night of high surf.[70] The Los Angeles Police Department determined that the deaths were accidental.[71] The families of the young women said the two California State University students were interested in joining Alpha Kappa Alpha and had been involved in activities.[70] However, the chapter at Cal State-Los Angeles had been suspended by the national sorority since 2000 due to "minor pledging infractions."[72]

Kristin High's family filed a US$100 million wrongful death lawsuit against Alpha Kappa Alpha on September 23, 2002 in Los Angeles District Court.[70] The suit claimed that the two women lost sleep while performing tasks for the members of an underground chapter of the sorority, carried out physical exercises on the beach, and were wearing jogging clothes and tennis shoes in the water, hindering their ability to remain afloat.[73] According to the lawsuit, the two women were "blindfolded and tied by their hands and their bodies and led into the rip tide conditions of the ocean".[73] The family and Alpha Kappa Alpha settled out of court.[citation needed]

The purpose of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of service to all mankind.

Sorority Creed[74]

The sorority responded to the call for help in fall 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, by raising money for a disaster relief fund.[65] In July 2007, through Habitat for Humanity, the sorority helped build a house in New Orleans for a family that survived Hurricane Katrina.[75] The sorority continues to assist the community by initiating service-related projects.[citation needed]

In addition to educational programs, Alpha Kappa Alpha contributed to drawing awareness to health-related issues, such as AIDS, sickle cell anemia, breast cancer, and the importance of staying in shape.[65][76][77] Recently, the sorority has supported the efforts of justice for the Jena Six.[78] Also, the sorority connects to the past by partnering with African Ancestry.[79] Sorority members may use African Ancestry's DNA testing to find genealogical data for themselves and their families. The purpose of the partnership is to help members trace family connections through the world as well as in Africa, to embrace African-American culture and the larger community.[80]

Centennial celebration: 2008

Marker near Howard University's Rankin Chapel celebrating the centennial anniversary of Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrated their centenary with a year-long commemoration in 2008. The celebration coincided with the sorority's biennial Boulé.[81] Internationally, some Alpha Kappa Alpha members began marking the festivities by making a pilgrimage to Howard University from January 12 to January 15, 2008.[81][82] The activities included sorority members financially donating $1 million dollars in scholarship funds to Howard University,[83] contributing libraries for Middle School for Mathematics and Science and Asbury Dwelling for Senior Citizens, and unveiling a digital version of the entire Ivy Leaf publication.[84] In addition, sorority undergraduate and graduate members who were not available to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C., held celebrations in local cities.[85][86] On July 11 to July 18, 2008, Alpha Kappa Alpha held their 63rd Boulé. A town hall meeting with the public, a unity march in conjunction with other NPHC members, and a concert featuring R&B Grammy Award winning singer Patti LaBelle were some of the events which occurred at the centennial Boulé.[87] On July 17, 2008, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority set a Guiness World Record when 16,206 members set a record by having the largest-ever silver service sit-down dinner in a convention.[88]

AKA's centennial museum at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Alpha Kappa Alpha's accomplishments were heralded by the United States Congress, with U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton and sorority member U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, who both agreed to pass legislation in both houses of the United States Congress to commemorate the sorority's founding.[89] In addition, the toy company Mattel designed a Barbie collectible doll fashioned with a pink and green evening gown.[90][91]

Lawsuit over International President

On June 20, 2009, eight Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members filed a complaint in D.C. Superior Court demanding that International President Barbara McKinzine be fired for improper use of sorority funds and the money be returned to the sorority.[92] The lawsuit claims that Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated's Executive Board approved the spending of thousands of dollars on McKinzie's costs of living, including commissioning an expensive wax model of McKinzie. In response, McKinzie denied the allegations, referring to them as "without merit."[93]

In February 2010, Natalia M. Combs Greene, associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, dismissed the lawsuit, stating that it contained "hyperbolic allegations riddled with buzz words." She wrote, "This case is largely about several disgruntled AKA members disillusioned with what they see as an increasingly opaque, authoritarian and self-serving leadership in their organization....The question remains, however, whether such behavior warrants judicial intervention.” The judge also maintained the plaintiffs had "overwhelmed the record with seemingly unnecessary and frivolous exhibits, arguments, counts and facts detailing the sorority’s 101-year history," and that many of the plaintiff's arguments "read as political speeches."[94][95]


Alpha Kappa Alpha's National Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois

Alpha Kappa Alpha reports a membership of over 200,000 college-trained women around the world. The sorority has over 49,000 active members who comprise a diverse constituency, from educators to heads of state, politicians, lawyers, medical professionals, media personalities, and corporate managers. Graduate members constitute the largest percentage of membership.[4] Alpha Kappa Alpha has 950 chapters, located in the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, Germany, Korea and Japan.

The term soror, derived from the Latin for "sister",[96] is used between members of the sorority. Membership of the Directorate includes the Board of Directors. For graduate chapters, "Omega" is added to distinguish those which consist of college graduates from undergraduate chapters. "Supreme," as a term, is amended to an international officeholder, such as Supreme Basileus.[1] Deceased members are referred to as "Ivies Beyond the Wall".[1]

Honorary membership is Alpha Kappa Alpha's highest honor.[4] For example, Jane Addams, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is among the first honorary members.[97] Eleanor Roosevelt, a former First Lady and wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was made an honorary member. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Senator and First Lady, and wife of President Bill Clinton, initially accepted honorary membership into Alpha Kappa Alpha.[98] In July 2008, Michelle Obama accepted the invitation to become an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which had no active undergraduate chapter at Princeton University when she attended. However, Clinton and Obama would later decline initiation into the organization due to the sorority's exclusive requirement preventing acceptance into other NPHC organizations, and both desired their membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha to be "non exclusive."[99]

Membership interest and intake

The Ivy Leaf Pledge Club was the official pledge club of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.[100] The club consisted of potential candidates who were interested in joining the sorority. Interested members would join the pledge club before being inducted into the sorority.[101]

An "Ivy Leaf Pledge Club" located at Wilberforce University in 1922

In Our Kind of People: Inside America's Upper Class, Lawrence Otis Graham tells of his aunt's experience in joining the Ivy Pledge Club:

We had to learn a lot more about the historic beginnings of the AKAs, and we did it by writing long letters of application to the Ivy Leaf Pledge Club—the senior wing of the sorority that regulated the admissions process—and then attending monthly meetings where the older students tutored us on the history.[102]
Ivy Leaf Pledge Club pin from Alpha Chapter of Howard University

In addition, according to Graham, the sorority would have "Pledge Week", a period where a candidate's grades and behavior were reviewed by chapter members. Candidates who withstood this period were initiated into the sorority.[102] Membership interest is processed by an interest meeting, known as a "rush". After the candidate receives an official letter from the sorority, she can participate in the membership intake process. Prospective members must have a C+ average prior to their membership submission as well as have a record in community service. If a prospective member has graduated, that member could be invited to join the sorority at the discretion of the graduate chapter.[103]

Leadership: Founders and Executive Directors

The leadership of the sorority in the early years was derived from three separate groups—the original group, the sophomores and the incorporators, who together were known as "The Twenty Pearls."[1][104] The Executive Director position has been held by eight members since the office's creation on October 9, 1949.[105]

Original Group
of 1908
of 1910[13]
of 1913[106]
Executive Directors[107]
Anna Easter Brown Norma Elizabeth Boyd Nellie M. Quander Carey B. Maddox-Preston
Beulah Elizabeth Burke Ethel Jones Mowbray Norma Elizabeth Boyd Anne Mitchem-Davis
Lillie Burke Alice P. Murray Julia Evangeline Brooks Earnestine G. McNealey
Marjorie Hill Sarah Meriweather Nutter Ethel Jones Mowbray Barbara A. McKinzie
Margaret Flagg Holmes Joanna Mary Berry Shields Nellie Pratt Russell Nan D. Johnson

Ethel Hedgeman Lyle

Carrie Snowden Minnie B. Smith Alison Harris
Lavinia Norman Harriet Josephine Terry Emma Lilly Henderson
Lucy Diggs Slowe Carey B. Maddox-Preston
Marie Woolfolk Taylor Betty N. James

International Presidents

Listed below are the twenty-seven International Presidents since the 1913 institution of the office.[108]


The Boulé is the regulating institution of the sorority and currently meets every two years.[1] Throughout the years, notable individuals such as civil rights activists (Martin Luther King, Jr. and Roy Wilkins) and political figures (former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) were speakers at past Boulé conferences.[citation needed]


The nine regions of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority within the United States[109]

After the establishment of 32 graduate and undergraduate chapters in 1924, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority organized chapters according to their regions in the United States and abroad. The Boulé determines the boundaries of the regions.[110] The ten regions are each led by a regional director, where she serves a member of the sorority's Board of Directors. In addition to serving on the sorority's Board of Directors, the regional director also follows guidelines, program targets set by the International President, as well as procedures.[110] Almost two-thirds of the sorority's regional directors have been elected international presidents.[110] A comprehensive list of regions is shown below:

  • Far-Western
  • Mid-Western
  • South Central
  • Central
  • South Eastern
  • South Atlantic
  • Mid-Atlantic
  • North Atlantic
  • Great Lakes
  • International

Current platform

Alpha Kappa Alpha's ESP logo for Barbara A. McKinzie's 2006–2010 administration

The National Program theme for 2006–2010 administration, led by Alpha Kappa Alpha's International President Barbara A. McKinzie, is "The Heart of ESP: An Extraordinary Service Program." ESP is an acronym for Economics, Sisterhood, and Partnerships.[111] The purpose of ESP is to energize and strengthen service to the community and sisterhood within Alpha Kappa Alpha.

The five platforms included in the International Program and implemented in the Ivy Reading AKAdemy are:

  • Platform I: Non-Traditional Entrepreneur
  • Platform II: Economic Keys to Success
  • Platform III: The Economic Growth of the Black Family
  • Platform IV: Undergraduate Signature Program: Economic Educational Advancement Through Technology
  • Platform V: Health Resource Management and Economics

On April 21, 2007, Centennial International President Barbara McKinzie announced that the Undergraduate Signature Program, Economic Educational Advancement through Technology, would provide free technology training to community residents through model programs at ten universities, (five are HBCUs), which include the following:[112]

National programs

Educational Advancement Foundation

Official logo of the Educational Advancement Foundation

Alpha Kappa Alpha's Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF) is a separate and tax-exempt branch of the sorority, which "provide[s] financial support to individuals and organizations engaged in lifelong learning."[113] The foundation awards academic scholarships (for undergraduate members of the sorority, as well as non-members), fellowships, and grants for community service.[114]

History and donations

The foundation was the brainchild of Constance Holland, the sister of former Alpha Kappa Alpha International President Dr. Barbara Phillips, in 1978. The foundation had official beginnings in 1980 and the sorority donated US$10,000 for the project. Eight years later, the organization first awarded $10,000 to fourteen students. In 1991, EAF first awarded mini-grants to community organizations. In 1998, EAF provided the first Youth Partners Accessing Capital (P.A.C.) award to an undergraduate member.

At the organization's twentieth anniversary in 2000, EAF published Perpetuating Our Posterity: A Blueprint for Excellence. The book served as a comprehensive history of the organization and as a source of advice for other beginning philanthropies. EAF went online with a website in 2003.

The organization celebrated a silver anniversary in Nassau, Bahamas, in 2005. EAF is incorporated into International President Barbara A. McKinzie's centennial program for funding under Excellent Scholarly Performance. Overall, EAF has donated more than $200,000 in grants and awarded 1,400 students with scholarships.[115] Other major donors to EAF include Continental Airlines and Northern Trust.[116]


Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated assisting Delaware's Department of Highway Safety in distributing booster seats to low income children
  • Advocates for Black Colleges - The purpose of the Advocates for Black Colleges is to raise $100,000 for a selected historically black college and university, to support the institution's scholarships and program grants. Corporations as well as minority graduates of historically black colleges are encouraged to donate funds as well. The first college receiving aid is Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.[117]
  • Howard University Fund - Alpha Kappa Alpha is celebrating the centennial of the sorority's founding by donating $2 million to Howard University though two facets. First, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center houses the historical artifacts, photographs, documents, and recordings of Alpha Kappa Alpha's contributions to community service. One million dollars will be used to improve Alpha Kappa Alpha's archives. In addition, one million dollars will be donated to the Nellie M. Quander Scholarship Fund. The fund will be used to finance partial or full scholarships for Howard University women in their junior and senior years.[117]
  • Chapter Scholarships - Undergraduate and graduate members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's chapters send separate dues to the Educational Advancement Foundation to fund local scholarships.[117][118] Depending on the size of the contributions by the chapter, the scholarships generally range from $100 to $500. For a chapter to donate under the EAF's Endowment Fund, a chapter needs to raise $20,000.[119]
  • The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Traveling Exhibit chronicles achievements of Alpha Kappa Alpha members through the organization's one-hundred years. The exhibit appears in several cities across the nation from 2006 to 2008.[120]

Ivy Acres

Ivy Acres will be a retirement center located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The retirement center is sponsored by Senior Residences, Incorporated, a subsidiary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.[121] Ivy Acres will be one of the first retirement centers founded by African-Americans and minorities in the United States. It will offer assisted or individual living for individuals who are over fifty-five, regardless of background, ethnicity or religion.[121][122] Barbara K. Phillips, former Vice-President and Project Coordinator for Senior Residences, Incorporated, explains the purpose of Ivy Acres, "We determined that there is a need out there, but this will be open to all. We want to be diverse, we want to be multicultural. Anyone who wants to come will be welcome."[121]

The gated community will be located on a 48-acre (190,000 m2) site. The planning for Ivy Acres cost approximately $32 million USD.[121] In addition, according to Business Wire, Ivy Acres will comprise "188 independent residential units, which will be both apartments and cottages, forty assisted-living apartments and twenty private accommodations for skilled nursing care."[121] Residents are expected to pay $1,890 to $2,890 per month for services.[121]

Alpha Kappa Alpha's Alpha Epsilon chapter at Virginia State University in 1994.

Ivy Reading AKAdemy

The Ivy Reading AKAdemy provides programs that encourage the entire community to become involved. The concept serves as an educational and human resource center for programs provided by Alpha Kappa Alpha. Working with No Child Left Behind in mind, "The Ivy Reading AKAdemy," a reading initiative, focuses on early learning and mastery of basic reading skills by the end of third grade. The Ivy Reading AKAdemy has a $1.5 million dollar proposal pending with the United States Department of Education to fund a three-year nationwide after-school demonstration project in low-performing, economically deprived inner city schools in 16 sites within the continental United States.[40]

Leadership Fellows Program

The Leadership Fellows Program is a fully funded event in which thirty Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sophomore and junior undergraduate members worldwide are individually trained for professional leadership roles. In addition, the fellows contribute to community service for one week. One of the selection criteria is that members must have at least a 3.0 GPA.[123] The program initially was planned in 1978. In the following year, the first program was held in Indiana with twenty-nine students.[40] Various cities around the United States have held the Leadership Fellows Program. In the past, Alpha Kappa Alpha has sponsored the event through the Educational Advancement Foundation. Also, the program has been financed by Pillsbury, Tyson Foods, Johnson & Johnson, and most recently General Electric.[124][125]

P.I.M.S. (Partnerships in Mathematics and Science)

Partnerships in Mathematics and Science (P.I.M.S.) began in Eva Evans's administration in 1994, and was a part of the S.P.I.R.I.T. program during the Linda White administration.[126] Eva Evans mentioned the need for a math and science program, "As a college sorority, we've always advanced an educational agenda. We always had high GPA requirements. And more than ever, we're pushing the importance of math and science for our girls. We need more black women in those fields."[127] The program's purpose is to increase the successes of youth in mathematics and science, as well as technology. Campaigns to highlight the program's importance were sponsored by the National Science Foundation and historically black colleges from across the country.[126] Several chapters provided two-week math and science summer camps on college and day school campuses, which consisted of hands-on-learning through laboratory interactions, field trips to important sites, youth camps, and speeches from influential experts in specific areas of studies.[40][67] For example, a P.I.M.S. program at Park Street Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, consisted of third through fifth grade girls and provided educational field trips in order to stimulate involvement in math and science.[117][128] Also, a national P.I.M.S. Olympiad, deriving from knowledge of math and science, in conjunction with the P.I.M.S. Community Parade was held at the 58th Boulé in Dallas, Texas.[40][67]

The green enameled ivy leaf is the official pin of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.[106]

Young Authors Program

In Linda White's administrations, the Young Authors Program was born. The purpose of the program is to encourage and raise involvement in reading and writing in kindergarten through third grade school children. Each of the ten regions in the sorority had the opportunity to choose a child's story to be published in a two volume anthology entitled, The Spirit Within: Voices of Young Authors.[40] In 2004, twenty children were honored in the first anthology.[129] The authors were recognized and performed book signings in the 2004 and 2006 Boulés.[40] At the 2004 Boulé in Nashville, Tennessee, former Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige attended. On July 15, 2004, First Lady Laura Bush spoke on the Ivy AKAdemy's dedication to reading initiatives, "Teaching our children to read is the most critical educational priority facing our country. Children who do not learn to read by third grade continue to find reading a challenge throughout their lives. These expectations increase in amount and complexity each year."[129][130]


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  • Anderson, James D. (1988). The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Brown, Tamara L., Parks, Gregory and Phillips, Clarenda M. (2005) African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky
  • McNealey, Earnestine G. (2006). Pearls of Service: The Legacy of America’s First Black Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  ISBN 2006928528
  • Parker, Marjorie H. (1958). Alpha Kappa Alpha: 1908–1958. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 
  • Parker, Marjorie H. (1966). Alpha Kappa Alpha: Sixty Years of Service. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 
  • Parker, Marjorie H. (1979). Alpha Kappa Alpha: In the Eye of the Beholder. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 
  • Parker, Marjorie H. (1990). Alpha Kappa Alpha Through the Years: 1908–1988. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 
  • Parker, Marjorie H. (1999). Past is Prologue: The History of Alpha Kappa Alpha 1908–1999. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  ISBN 0933244002
  • Ross, Jr., Lawrence (2000). The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America. New York: Kensington.  ISBN 1575664917

External links

Simple English

Alpha Kappa Alpha is the first sorority founded by African-American women. The sorority was founded on January 15, 1908, at Howard University. The sorority has more than 200,000 women in over 950 chapters located in the United States, the Caribbean, Germany, Korea and Japan.

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