Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was founded on January 15, 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. Its founders were among the fewer than 1,000 Negroes enrolled in higher education institutions in 1908 and the 25 women who received Bachelor of Arts degrees from Howard University between 1908 and 1911. Nine juniors and seniors who constituted the initial core group of founding members and seven sophomores who were extended an invitation for membership without initiation comprised what are acknowledged as Alpha Kappa Alpha’s original 16 founders. Led by Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle), the nine Howard University students who came together to form Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority were the scholastic leaders of their classes. Each also had a special talent or gift that further enhanced the potential of this dynamic group.
The Original Nine: Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle), Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe and Marie Woolfolk (Taylor).
With the exception of Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, the original group of nine women was comprised of college seniors. To ensure the continuity of the organization, seven Class of 1910 honor students who had expressed interest were invited to join without initiation.
The Sophomores: Norma Boyd, Ethel Jones (Mowbray), Alice Murray, Sarah Meriweather (Nutter), Joanna Berry (Shields), Carrie Snowden and Harriet Terry
After attending a sorority meeting in 1912 where she heard proposals from then-current members to change the group’s name, colors, symbols and motto, Nellie May Quander (inducted in 1910; president of Alpha chapter from 1911-1912) realized that the need for an intervention to preserve the original premise of the sorority that she and its founders held dear was urgent. Quander quickly formed a committee comprised of a trio including herself and members Norma E. Boyd and Minnie Beatrice Smith—and later expanded to include sorority officers Julia Evangeline Brooks, Ethel Jones (Mowbray) and Nellie Pratt (Russell)—whose mission was to seek and acquire incorporation.
These women committed to Alpha Kappa Alpha fanned out to solicit the support of other like-minded undergraduate and graduate members who held true to the vows they had taken upon their initiation. The effort culminated in the successful protection and subsequent perpetuity of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority through its incorporation on January 29, 1913, with Quander, Boyd and Smith as signers of the petition. It was the first black Greek-letter organization to attempt and complete such a measure. The incorporation of the sorority positioned it to broaden its service concept offerings while ensuring the preservation of its founding principles and brands.