The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is a national men’s fraternity that was founded in 1911 by members of Howard University. It has approximately 150,000 members in 714 collegiate chapters and 140 local Omega Psi Phi sororities across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The fraternity was founded as an African American Greek-letter organization that would promote social justice for African Americans.
With this mission to engage with other civil rights organizations and raise awareness of the struggles of the African-American community during a period when black political power was often blocked by white society, it is fitting that their motto is “For Service & Brotherhood.” Their fight for equality also continues today. The fraternity is known for its many community service initiatives, and it provides a support network for African Americans who are interested in higher education.
The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for Black college students. It was founded November 17, 1911 by three Howard University juniors, Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman. These founders chose “Omega Psi Phi” as the name of their organization to signify unity and love among Black students and to honor George Henry Lane Enable, a prominent African American Freemason and their mentor. The term “Psi Phi” used by the fraternity was originally derived from the Greek alphabet. In the system used by Alford, the letter “? (Psi) was used as a symbol for equality. (“Psi” is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet.) The founders chose “Omega” to signify greatness, because in Greek it is a large letter. The fraternity’s hand sign is made by raising both hands palms forward with all fingers extended and separated. That is accompanied by saying in unison: “I believe in my heart that…”, followed by “…Omega Psi Phi”.
Love, Cooper and Coleman were initiated into Omega Psi Phi on May 20, 1912 at Alpha chapter. In 1939, George E. Hall, a Howard University graduate, who would later be a dental student at Columbia University was initiated into the Alpha chapter of Omega Psi Phi.
In the early 1920s, Omega Psi Phi began to recruit African American students at traditionally white colleges such as Duke University and the University of Virginia. Thus, by 1925, it had a presence on some 90 campuses in the United States and Canada. The fraternity expanded its membership to include more than 100 members at many predominantly white schools in the 1930s. Nonetheless, because it was still a relatively small fraternity with limited recognition among whites, members also became active in other predominantly white fraternities and sororities as well as general society around campus.
Omega Psi Phi’s mission has changed over time from one of promoting self-improvement to one that is more oriented toward community service and national philanthropy. The fraternity has also expanded its membership from a virtually all-black group to one that includes Latina/o, Asian, Native American, and white members as well.
In 1947, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received his Ph.D from Boston University and was initiated into the Alpha chapter of Omega Psi Phi at Morehouse College by Walter Francis White. In the 1950s, Walter M. Cooke and Charles C. Rangel were initiated into Omega Psi Phi at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Charles C. Rangel was also initiated into Alpha chapter of Omega Psi Phi at Morehouse College by the fraternity’s “Grand Basileus” Marvin C. Dandridge Sr. in 1959.
The article has been used as a reference to give students information and background on the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., however, it is not to be copied verbatim.