The National Pan-Hellenic Council is a council of nine international historically black Greek letter sororities and fraternities, or Black Greek Letter organizations, also known as the Divine Nine.
History of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Divine Nine
The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) was established on May 10, 1930, on the campus of Howard University. The founding members include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. The NPHC’s membership expanded to include Alpha Phi Alpha (1931), Phi Beta Sigma (1931), Sigma Gamma Rho (1937), and Iota Phi Theta (1996).
The Influence of the Divine Nine on American Culture
The NPHC was created as a way to address the lack of unity among African American Greeks. These organizations wanted to promote cooperation among different groups in order to foster better understanding among all people.
The Divine Nine has been able to have a significant impact on American culture due to its work with college campuses and the large number of members who are in influential positions.
Who Are the Members of the Divine Nine?
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA)
Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded in 1908 at Howard University to encourage its members to aspire to the highest levels of scholastic achievement, service, and friendship. As the oldest of the original NPHC Greek organizations, AKA has 1 ,061 chapters and more than 325,000 initiated sorority members in 11 nations and all states.
The sixteen women who started AKA in Washington, D.C., could never have imagined that their organization would become a vital part of college life in Japan, Germany, the Virgin Islands, and thousands of campuses across the United States. Notable members include Ava DuVernay, Cassandra Wilson, Jamilah Lemieux, Donda West, Mary Park Washington, Wanda Sykes, Regina Taylor, Mistie Adams, Lynn Whitfield, and Phylicia Rashad.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (AΦA)
Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906 at Cornell University in New York. AΦA is more than a Divine Nine member: it is the first black intercollegiate Greek fraternity in the nation. Its members have fought for civil rights and social justice through segregation, apartheid, the AIDS crisis, and multiple wars, and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and W.E.B. Du Bois were proud members of the fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha has over 290,000 members and more than 730 active chapters in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia.
The Greek organization continues to support charitable initiatives like Head Start, Project Alpha, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Notable members include Thurgood Marshall, Chaka Fattah, Dick Gregory, Cornel West, Charles B. Rangel, Samuel Pierce, Corey Hébert, John Johnson, Mike Powell, Donny Hathaway, Andrew Young, and Robert F. Smith.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (KAΨ)
Kappa Alpha Psi was founded in 1911 at Indiana University, and in 1930 the fraternity joined the NPHC as a member organization. Although KAΨ was founded as a predominantly African-American Greek organization, it has always been an inclusive fraternity that welcomes members of all races and nationalities. KAΨ’s motto is “achievement in every field of human endeavor,” and its members continue to live up to their creed by supporting organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the UNCF.
KAΨ is also known for its step shows: “Kappa Kane” and “cane stepping” have been some of the fraternity’s most popular traditions since the 1950s. The Kappas has over 160,000 members and more than 721 active chapters in the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, Japan, the United States Virgin Islands, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Bahamas. Notable members include John Conyers, Marc Lamont Hill, Alcee Hastings, Lance Gross, Stan Lathan, Cedric “The Entertainer” Kyles, Charles M. Blow, Kevin Samuels, Marvin Sapp, and Robert L. Johnson.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (ΔΣΘ)
Delta Sigma Theta was founded in 1913 at Howard University, and since its inception, the sorority has been actively involved in civil rights and women’s suffrage campaigns. ΔΣΘ participated in the Women’s Suffrage March on March 3, 1913, and it is currently a member of the NAACP and the NCNW. The mission of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization, is to offer aid and support through established programs in regional communities around the globe. ΔΣΘ is also involved in several charitable initiatives, including the Go Red for Women Campaign and World Aids Day.
The sorority has over 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters located in the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, West Africa, Southern Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Korea. Notable members include, Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Violet Edward, Dorothy I. Height, Natalie Cole, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Boyd, and Loretta Lynch.
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (ΩΨΦ)
Omega Psi Phi was founded in 1911 at Howard University and joined the NPHC as a Divine Nine member organization in 1930. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift are the cardinal principles that have guided its members for over a century. ΩΨΦ is the first black fraternity to be founded at a HBCU, and its members have become famous for their involvement in business, politics, civil rights, the arts, sports, and education.
The fraternity has over 250,000 members and more than 750 active chapters in the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, South Korea, Japan, Liberia, Germany, and Kuwait. Notable members include Langston Hughes, Benjamin Mays, Michael Jordan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Earl Graves Sr., Ronald McNair, John Salley, Steve Harvey, Terrence J. Bolden, Jr., and Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (ΦBΣ)
Phi Beta Sigma was founded in 1914 at Howard University to encourage “brotherhood, scholarship, and service” among young African-American men. ΦBΣ is known for starting many Greek traditions, including alumni chapters, youth mentoring clubs, and fraternity credit unions. ΦBΣ members are committed to their education and their communities, which is why ΦBΣ is actively involved in programs like Project S.W.W.A.C. (Sigmas Waging War Against Cancer) and the Bigger and Better Business Initiative.
The fraternity has over 200,000 members and more than 750 active chapters in the United States, Canada, the District of Columbia, Germany, Switzerland, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, South Korea, Japan, and countries in Africa. Notable members include William Tolbert, George Washington Carver, Huey P. Newton, John Lewis, Hosea Williams, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Blair Underwood, Ben Vereen, Terrence Howard, Al Roker, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Hines Ward, and Richard Sherman.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (ZΦB)
Zeta Phi Beta was founded in 1920 at Howard University as a sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma. ZΦB has always been involved in social causes, including the National Educational Foundation and Z-H.O.P.E. (Zetas Helping Other People Excel). Since the beginning, Zeta has been steadily moving into the national spotlight with programs that show care for people in the U.S. and around the world.
It was the first National Pan-Hellenic Council organization to have a national headquarters, the first to start a chapter in Africa, the first to form auxiliary groups, and the first to be legally linked to a fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. The sorority has over 100,000 members and 850 chapters in North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Notable ZΦB members include Syleena Johnson, Tonea Stewart, Dorothy L. Goosby, Mistie Williams, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Beatrice Welters, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (ΣΓΡ)
Sigma Gamma Rho was started at Butler University in 1922. In 1937, it became a member of the NPHC as one of the Divine Nine. Its members work hard for social causes that help their communities. Sigma Gamma Rho has been a home for thousands of college students and working women who were looking for a place to share inspiring life stories, learn new things, overcome life challenges, thrive in society, and help the community through sisterhood, scholarship, and service. ΣΓΡ is involved in a wide range of programs, such as ACT Against AIDS, Buckle Up America, and the National Marrow Donor Program.
The sorority has more than 500 chapters in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. Notable members include Deshauna Barber, Joyce Carol Thomas, Aisha N. Braveboy, Gwen Cherry, Nina Turner, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Gwen Cherry, MC Lyte, Kelly Price, and Fantasia Monique Barrino-Taylor.
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. (ΙΦΘ)
Iota Phi Theta was founded in 1963 at Morgan State University during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The twelve men that started ΙΦΘ were non-traditional students who were influenced by civil rights leaders like Malcom X and the Black Panthers. ΙΦΘ became heavily involved in social causes, activism, and service, including the boycott of a segregated shopping mall in Baltimore, MD. Today, Iota Phi Theta maintains its promise to make important contributions to society in general, with a focus on the African-American community. “Building a Tradition, Not Resting on One,” which was the motto of the group’s founders, will always be important to them.
The Iotas have more than 30,000 members and more than 300 chapters in 40 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Bahamas, Colombia, South Korea, and Japan. Notable members include Congressman Bobby Rush, Terrence T.C. Carson, Harry C. Alford, Brian K. Johnson, Maurice Flowers, Calvin Murphy, Anthony Downing, Ashley Bell, Spencer Christian, and Lawrence Thomas.
Are you considering joining a Divine Nine fraternity or sorority?
Choosing the best Greek-letter organization (BGLO) for YOU is ultimately more important than the most popular BGLO at your university because there are so many options available to HBCU students. Read “Greek Life: 5 Tips for Choosing Black Fraternities and Sororities” for more advice and pointers.
Divine Nine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the Divine Nine names?
The Divine Name names are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta.
Why is it called the Divine Nine?
The term “Divine Nine” was created by Lawrence C. Ross, Jr. to refer to the coalition in his popular book on black Greek-letter organizations, The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America, which was originally published in 2001.
Which is the oldest Divine 9?
The oldest members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta. They were founded in 1930.
What are the colors of the Divine 9?
The Divine 9 colors are pink and green (Alpha Kappa Alpha), crimson and cream (Kappa Alpha Psi), purple and gold (Omega Psi Phi), crimson and cream (Delta Sigma Theta), blue and white (Zeta Phi Beta), black and gold (Alpha Phi Alpha), blue and white (Phi Beta Sigma), blue and gold (Sigma Gamma Rho), and crown and gold (Iota Phi Theta).
What are the Divine Nine Sororities?
The Divine Nine sororities are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho.
What are the Divine Nine Fraternities?
The Divine Nine fraternities are Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, and Iota Phi Theta.
What are the Divine Nine founding dates?
The Divine Nine founding dates for each organization are: Alpha Kappa Alpha (January 15, 1908), Kappa Alpha Psi (January 5, 1911), Omega Psi Phi (November 17, 1911), Delta Sigma Theta (January 13, 1913), Zeta Phi Beta (January 16, 1920), Alpha Phi Alpha (December 4, 1906), Phi Beta Sigma (January 9, 1914), Sigma Gamma Rho (November 12, 1922), and Iota Phi Theta (September 19, 1963).