On December 4, 1906 until this present day in time, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African-Americans and people of color around the world. With the Great Sphinx of Giza as its symbol, and the motto “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” Alpha Phi Alpha dedicated itself to defend the rights and to promote the responsibilities of African Americans.
The Fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially, at Cornell. The Jewel founders and early leaders of the Fraternity succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Alpha Phi Alpha’s principles of scholarship, fellowship, good character, and the uplifting of humanity.
Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood.
The seven visionary founders are known as the “The Jewels” of the Fraternity. They are: Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle, and Vertner Woodson Tandy.
Jewel Henry Arthur Callis became a practicing physician, Howard University Professor of Medicine and prolific contributor to medical journals. Often regarded as the “Philosopher of the founders,” and a moving force in the Fraternity’s development, he was the only one of the “Cornell Seven” to become General President. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., he was a medical consultant to the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. Upon his death in 1974, at age 87, the Fraternity entered a time without any living Jewels. His papers were donated to Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Jewel Charles Henry Chapman entered higher education and eventually became Professor of Agriculture at what is now Florida A&M University. A university funeral was held with considerable Fraternity participation when he became the first Jewel to enter Omega Chapter in 1934. Described as “A Brother beloved in the bonds,” Chapman was the founder of FAMU’s Alpha College Chapter, Beta Nu.
Jewel Eugene Kinckle Jones became the first Executive Secretary of the National Urban League. His 20-year tenure with the Urban League thus far has exceeded those of all his successors in office. A versatile leader, he organized the first three Fraternity college chapters that branched out from Cornell—Beta Chapter at Howard, Gamma Chapter at Virginia Union and the Gamma at the University of Toronto in Canada. His status as a founder was not finally established until 1952. He died in 1954.
Jewel George Biddle Kelley became the first African American engineer registered in the state of New York. Not only was he the strongest proponent of the Fraternity idea among the organization’s founders, Kelley was very popular with the Brotherhood. He resided in Troy, New York and was active with Beta Pi Lambda Chapter in Albany. He died in 1963.
Jewel Nathaniel Allison Murray pursued graduate work after completing his undergraduate studies at Howard. He later returned home to Washington, D.C., where he taught in public schools. Much of his career was spent at Armstrong Vocational High School in the District of Columbia. He was a charter member of Washington’s Mu Lambda Chapter and a frequent attendee of General Conventions. He died in 1959.
Jewel Robert Harold Ogle entered the career secretarial field and had the unique privilege of serving as a professional staff member to the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations. He was an African American pioneer in his Capitol Hill position. He proposed the Fraternity’s colors and was Alpha Chapter’s first secretary. Ogle joined Kelley as a charter member of Washington’s Mu Lambda Chapter. He died in 1936.
Jewel Vertner Woodson Tandy became the state of New York’s first registered architect, with offices on Broadway in New York City. He holds the distinction of being the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned First Lieutenant in the 15th Infantry of the New York State National Guard. Among the buildings designed by the highly talented architect is Saint Phillips Episcopal Church in New York City and the home of Madam C.J. Walker. He died in 1949, at age 64.
Alpha Phi Alpha chapters were developed at other colleges and universities, many of them at historically black institutions, soon after the founding at Cornell. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. members continued to stress academic excellence, and recognized the need to help correct the educational, economical, political, and social injustices faced by African-Americans.Alpha Phi Alpha has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through leaders such as: W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, William Gray, Paul Robeson, and many others.