The history of our community
Black Greek-letter organizations have a long and rich history both nationally and locally. So much so, that the National Pan Hellenic Council was founded May 10th, 1930 at Howard University and incorporated under Illinois laws in 1937. The council which is an umbrella organization that houses all 9 organizations, commonly referred to as the "Divine Nine" , was pivotal in the civil rights movement and many other national programs that benefited a lot of people. The first intercollegiate black fraternity in the council was Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, founded December 4th, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. However, at the University of Iowa, the first of the black Greek letter organizations chartered on campus was Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. on March 7th, 1914.
Until 1919, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc, was the only black Greek letter organization chartered on campus. In that year, eight women chartered the Delta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. on April 4th, 1919. Before the 60’s, only one other black Greek letter organization was chartered at the University of Iowa: The Alpha Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. (1922). It wasn’t until 1969, with the chartering of the Epsilon Theta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, that we saw more black Greek letter organizations make their way to Iowa’s campus. These organizations were more than what society depicts as a stereotypical fraternity or sorority. They provided a forum in which Black students could engage in current discourse, serve their communities, and instill leadership skills that would follow them for the rest of their lives.
In the early years, both Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. rented a succession of buildings as houses on campus. This was because housing for black students was scarce, and the organizations were not yet able to become long term renters. It wasn’t until 1922, that they were able to become long term renters, to which the men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity inc. chose 301 S. Dubuque St as their chapter house until the mid ‘30’s. The house is no longer in existence. The men of both fraternities and other black students lived in the historic Tate Arms aka Charles and Dorothy Alberts House this happened when Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. was chartered on campus and the campus saw a surge of black students. The men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. also lived in 818 S. Dubuque St. Although fraternity/sorority houses were typically strictly for individuals who identify as that gender, these houses for all black students regardless of their affiliation with an organization. Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. resided in the Iowa Federation Home at 942 Iowa Avenue, although it was not the only house that members resided in, it is an important and long-standing artifact for the Delta Chapter. The other organizations on Iowa’s campus were chartered as follows: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (1975); Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (1979); Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc (1980); and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (1983).