About Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

A Brief History

Omega Psi Phi  is an international fraternity and is the first African-American national fraternal organization to be founded at a historically black college. Omega Psi Phi was founded on November 17, 1911, at Howard University in Washington, D.C. by three undergraduate students and one faculty advisor. The founders were Howard University juniors Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman. The first faculty advisor of the fraternity was Dr. Ernest Everett Just, who early on was accorded the status of founder by the three undergraduates. Each of the founders had distinguished careers in their chosen fields: Bishop Edgar Love became Bishop of the United Methodist Church; Dr. Oscar Cooper became a prominent physician who practiced in Philadelphia for over 50 years; Professor Frank Coleman became the Chairman of the Department of Physics at Howard University for many years; Dr. Ernest E. Just became a world-renowned biologist.

The next meeting was conducted on November 23, 1911. Edgar Love became the first Grand Basileus (National President). Cooper and Coleman were selected Grand Keeper of the Records (National Secretary) and Grand Keeper of Seals (National Treasurer), respectively. Eleven Howard University undergraduate men were selected as charter members.

From its inception, the fraternity has worked to build a strong and effective force of men dedicated to its Cardinal Principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift. Howard University would not initially recognize the fraternity as a national organization and Omega Psi Phi's leadership refused local recognition. The fraternity operated without official sanction until the university withdrew its opposition in 1914, the same year that Beta chapter was founded at Lincoln University.Omega Psi Phi was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia in October 1914. 

 

By 1920 the fraternity had 10 chapters. In 1927, at the urging of fraternity member Carter G. Woodson, the fraternity made National Negro Achievement Week an annual observance, and it continues today as Black History Month. In 1930 Omega Psi Phi became one of 5 founding members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). The NPHC expanded when Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Beta Sigma joined in 1931, Sigma Gamma Rho in 1937, and Iota Phi Theta in 1996.

Since 1945, the fraternity has undertaken a National Social Action Program to meet the needs of African Americans in the areas of health, housing, civil rights, and education. Omega Psi Phi has been a patron of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) since 1955, providing an annual gift of $50,000 to the program. Omega Psi Phi is also a National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) member.

Thirkield Science Hall at Howard University in Washington, DC: The birthplace of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Early Milestones
  • Omega Psi Phi was the first national African-American fraternity to be founded at a historically black college when it was established on November 17, 1911 at Howard University.   

  • From the initials of the Greek phrase meaning, “friendship is essential to the soul,” the name Omega Psi Phi was derived. That phrase was selected as the motto.

  • Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift were adopted as Cardinal Principles.

  • On November 23, 1911 in Thirkield Hall, Love became the first Grand Basileus (National President). Cooper and Coleman were selected to be the Grand Keeper of the Records (National Secretary) and Grand Keeper of Seals (National Treasurer), respectively. Eleven Howard University undergraduate men were selected to be the charter members.

  • Alpha Chapter was organized with fourteen charter members on December 15, 1911. Love, Cooper and Coleman were elected the chapter’s first Basileus, Keeper of Records, and Keeper of Seals, respectively.

  • Cooper became the fraternity’s second Grand Basileus in 1912 and authorized the investigation of a proposed second chapter at Lincoln University, Penn.

  • Love was elected as the third Grand Basileus in 1912 and served until 1915.

 

  • In 1912, Howard University officials did not initially recognize the fraternity as a national organization and Omega Psi Phi’s leadership refused to only accept local recognition. As a result, the fraternity operated without official sanction, until the university withdrew its opposition in 1914, the same year that the Beta Chapter was chartered at Lincoln University.

  • Omega Psi Phi was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914

  • George E. Hall, the fourth Grand Basileus, authorized the establishment of Gamma Chapter in Boston.

  • Clarence F. Holmes served as Omega’s sixth Grand Basileus. It was under his leadership that the Fraternity’s first official hymn, “Omega Men Draw Nigh,” was written by Otto Bohannon.

  • Stanley Douglas served as editor to the first Oracle published in the spring of 1919.

  • Raymond G. Robinson, the seventh Grand Basileus, established Delta Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee in 1919.

  • Stanley Douglas served as Editor of the first Oracle published in the spring of 1919. Robinson left office in 1920 with a total of ten chapters in operation.

  • Harold K. Thomas, the eighth Grand Basileus, was elected at the Nashville Grand Conclave in 1920.

  • It was at this Conclave that Carter G. Woodson inspired the establishment of National Achievement Week to promote the study of Negro life and history.

  • The Atlanta Grand Conclave in 1921 brought to an end the Fraternity’s first decade.

  • In 1922, Grand Basileus J. Alston Atkins appointed the first District Representatives. Today, there are eleven such officers who are elected annually at district meetings.

 

  • Also in 1922, the office of Vice Grand Basileus was created. The Grand Keeper of Records became the Grand Keeper of the Records and Seal. The first Omega Bulletin was published in 1928 and Campbell C. Johnson was the editor.

 

  • “Omega Dear,” was adopted as the official hymn in 1931. Charles R. Drew, professor of surgery, and Mercer Cook, professor of languages, both members of the Howard faculty, were the composers. Cook wrote the music and first stanza; Drew wrote the last two stanzas.

 

  • Each of the founders graduated and went on to have distinguished careers in their chosen fields: Edgar Love became a Methodist Bishop; Oscar Cooper practiced medicine in Philadelphia for over 50 years; Frank Coleman became the chairman of the Department of Physics at Howard University and Dr. Ernest E. Just became a world-renowned biologist and a recipient of the prestige NAACP Spingarn Medal.

  • Omega built a strong and effective force of men dedicated to its cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.

Founders
  • Dr. Ernest Everett Just

  • Bishop Edgar Amos Love

  • Dr. Oscar James Cooper

  • Professor Frank Coleman

Membership

Today, Omega Psi Phi has over 700 chapters throughout the United States, Bermuda, Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Korea, Japan, Liberia, Germany, and Kuwait. There are many notable Omega Men recognized as leaders in the arts,the sciences, academics, athletics, business, civil rights, education, government, and science sectors at the local, national and international level. Some of these men include Executive Directors of the NAACP Roy Wilkins and Benjamin Hooks, former President of the National Urban League, Vernon Jordan, Dr. Robert H. Lawrence, the first Black to serve in the US Astronaut Program, and President & CEO of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Jesse Jackson. Also, two former governors William H. Hastie (U.S. Virgin Islands) and L. Douglas Wilder (Virginia) and numerous presidents of colleges and universities as well. NBA Basketball players Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Richard Aitken and Vince Carter are also members of this fraternity.

Omega Psi Phi offers undergraduate and graduate membership to potential aspirants. College students must be working toward a bachelor's degree at a four year institution, 36 semester credits, and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average. An initiant into the graduate chapter must already possess a bachelor's degree. The fraternity grants honorary membership to men who have contributed to society in a positive way on a national or international level. For example, Charles Young (March 12, 1864 - January 8, 1922) was the third African American graduate of West Point, first black U.S. national park superintendent, first African American military attaché, and highest ranking black officer (Lt. Colonel) in the United States Army until his death in 1922.