The Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, the first Black Greek Letter Organization, was founded on May 15, 1904. Four Philadelphia doctors – Dr. Henry Mckee Minton, Dr. Algernon B. Jackson, Dr. Edwin C. Howard, and Dr. Richard J. Warrick – established the group at the time Black professionals were not afforded membership to similar White organizations.
Minton was the first to introduce the idea to Jackson, as he felt isolated as an accomplished Black man who had no place to connect and grow with others like him. Jackson liked the idea and Minton began reaching out to other professionals, including Howard and Warrick. The pair had their first meeting on the aforementioned date ultimately recruiting Dr. Robert J. Abele and Eugene T. Hinson to join them.
Collectively known as “The Boule,” which some sources say means “a council of noblemen,” Sigma Pi Phi is one of the more exclusive Greek-letter organizations. Unlike The Divine 9 fraternities and sororities, its members have already graduated or earned their professional degrees before they can join.
Today, Sigma Pi Phi boasts over 5,000 members nationwide and is open to all races.
Notable members of Sigma Pi Phi include Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, Arthur Ashe, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Congressman John Lewis.
(Photo: Beta Psi chapter, SUNY Albany)