Philadelphia Alumni Chapter History

Perhaps no other city in post-colonial America afforded Negroes as much social, economic, and political opportunity as Philadelphia [PA]. In the 50 years following the American Revolution, the city was home to the largest concentration of free Negroes in the North. As the 19th century progressed, it became obvious white citizens of the City of Brotherly Love would accept Negroes only on certain terms. The growing immigrant population of the city forced Negroes out of the skilled professions and hindered their chances at employment in the emerging industrial economy. Many Negroes adjusted to this change by excelling in the service sector. Catering was one of the fields where Negroes distinguished themselves.

Philadelphia has been a center of Negro religious activity for more that 200 years. The history of the Negro church reflects both the historic growth of the city and critical aspects of its social and political history. The Philadelphia Negro churches emerged in the late 18th century as products of the frustration and the hypocrisy of racism that Negro congregants experienced from predominantly white congregations. Architecturally, these first churches — Mother Bethel, founded by Richard Allen in 1794; St. Thomas Episcopal, founded by Absalom Jones in 1794; and Zoar Methodist Episcopal, founded by 1796 — looked almost identical to St. George’s Methodist, the white church from which they arose.

Philadelphia is the home of the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper. Founded in 1884, it is the oldest and largest newspaper serving the Negro community. Philadelphia is the home of Marian Anderson. Born in 1897 in South Philadelphia, Anderson became one the greatest singers in the world. She performed throughout the world and was the recipient of a 1963 Presidential Medal of Freedom. During her dynamic career, she earned the title – the world’s greatest contralto. Philadelphia is the home of the International Headquarters of the Fraternity . Located a few blocks north of Temple University , it is a source of pride to Kappamen, particularly those residing in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

The Fraternity established the Philadelphia (PA) Alumni Chapter on May 25, 1922. It was the third alumni chapter established in the eastern corridor, and the second city to accommodate both a Greek letter and alumni chapter.

Kappa Alpha Psi Founder John Milton Lee

The inspiration for the establishment of the Chapter was Founder Lee , who was residing in Philadelphia following his discharge from the military. The charter members included –

  • Harry Ashley
  • Felton L. Brown
  • Bernard C. Calloway
  • George W. Clinton
  • Benjamin H. Dillard
  • Norman L. Glenn
  • William E. Griffin
  • Alvin Sloane Hawk
  • Edward H. Smyrl
  • Cornelius Wooding

They were all graduates of Temple University . Brothers Brown, Calloway, Clinton , Glenn, Hawk, Smyrl, and Wooding were among the charter group of the Lambda Chapter at Temple University . Founder Lee served as the interim Polemarch until the chapter elected Dr. John P. Turner who served in 1922-23.

Since its inception, the Philadelphia (PA) Alumni Chapter has long been an active leader in the Philadelphia community. During the 20th century, the city was the site of three Grand Chapter meetings – the 20th in 1930, the 49th in 1959, and the 72nd in 1995.

Prior to 1951, the Chapter held its monthly meetings in the homes of brothers. In 1951, the Chapter purchased a property on Belmont Avenue for $7,000. It sold the building a few years later and began meeting in the YMCA located at 52nd and Samson Streets. However, the lack of privacy caused the Chapter to consider some other options. The next meeting location was the Heritage House on North Broad Street . It was in a high crime area and located next door to the meeting place for the Black Panthers chapter. This created a tense atmosphere in and around this location. The Chapter then held its meetings at the New Holsey Christian Methodist Church but a litany of incidents forced the Chapter to move its meeting to an assortment of local hotels and community centers. In 1995, the Chapter purchased a facility in the historic Germantown section. A three-story building, named the Achievement Center, is also home to the Achievement Academy – the Chapter Guide Right program.

Its membership roster typically approaches 300 on an annual basis. It has been the home chapter of several Fraternity legends, including –

Philadelphia Alumni Chapter at Founders Day Banquet 2016

Hiliary H. Holloway – the first Executive Secretary of Kappa Alpha Psi , the third and fifth Grand Keeper of Records and Exchequer, the 22nd Grand Polemarch; and the 33rd Laurel Wreath Wearer;
John N. Williams – the first Elder Watson Diggs Award recipient;
Reverend Leon H. Sullivan – the 28th Laurel Wreath Wearer
Charles Otis Stout – the 13th Elder Watson Diggs Award recipient;
C. Clifford Washington – the 19th Elder Watson Diggs Award recipient
Melvin Jackson – the 61st Elder Watson Diggs Award recipient
Mark Canty Jr – the 66th Elder Watson Diggs Award recipient
Ernest Brown, past Executive Director of Kappa Alpha Psi
Richard Lee Snow, past Executive Director of Kappa Alpha Psi
Keith A. Hunt, past Executive Director of Kappa Alpha Psi
Craig Chisholm, Current Northeastern Province Polemarch

Within the city of Philadelphia , there are several landmarks named for Kappamen –

  • Cecil B. Moore Avenue , a portion of Columbia Avenue that honors Brother Moore for his civil rights work
  • F. Luther Cunningham Center , a city run facility at 10th and Wallace Streets that honors the deceased pastor of St Paul Baptist Church and was the site of the first Guide Right activities of the Chapter;
  • Leslie P. Hill Elementary School , a public school at 32nd and Susquehanna Streets that honors the deceased president of Cheyney University who was a speaker at the 10th Grand Chapter meeting held in Philadelphia
  • E. Washington Rhodes Middle School , a public school at 29th and Clearfield Streets that honors the deceased editor and publisher of the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper and was the Closed Banquet speaker at the 20th Grand Chapter meeting;
  • E. Washington Rhodes Police Athletic League Center, a city run center at 57th and Christian Streets also honors Brother Rhodes
  • John P. Turner Middle School, a public school at 59th and Baltimore Streets that honors the first Negro member of the Philadelphia Board of Education