T. M. Berry Project: Alpha Phi Alpha Continued

By Laura Laugle

26th Anniversary Convention

Close up of Theodore M. Berry with Alpha Brothers from the group photo below at the 26th Anniversary Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, 1933

The photos that I took to preservation a couple of weeks ago (see my blog post T. M. Berry Project: Alpha Phi Alpha) came back last week and are looking lovely! They really did a great job, especially with the photos featured in today’s blog which had been tightly rolled and were incredibly stiff and brittle. They are now nice and flat and beautiful. So here’s a big “thank you” to the preservation department in Langsam Library!

I know that the panoramic photographs below seem small on a computer screen; in fact it’s difficult for me to even make out faces, but in real life they are pretty large. The three original photos we have range from 27” to 36” in length and are well big enough to see each individual clearly which is especially important with these photos.

It is true that most universities keep some sort record on campus Greek organizations and for most fraternities or sororities, debate speeches given in the 1920s and photographs from 1930s national conventions would make wonderful additions to the material already contained in the archive. However, these items detail the happenings of Alpha Phi Alpha, which upon its founding at Cornell University in 1906 became the nation’s first intercollegiate fraternity for African American men. African American students at many schools, including UC, were largely ignored and excluded from many campus activities. As a result, these students took matters into their own hands and created their own publications like The New Horizon and founded chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha and sororities Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha. This “pretend that they’re not there and maybe they’ll just go away” policy extended to African American Greek letter organizations as well and resulted in only sporadic inclusions of these institutions in yearbooks and campus publications, complete exclusion from the Intrafraternity Council and the Women’s Pan-Hellenic Council  and a general lack of published or archival material. It is an unfortunate truth that such practices make items like these so rare but it’s wonderful to have found them and to share them with you.

Alpha Phi Alpha 1933

26th Anniversary Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in St. Louis, Missouri, December 28 – 31, 1933

Alpha Phi Alpha Nashville

Alpha Phi Alpha convention in Nashville, Tennessee, December 28 – 31, 1935

Close-ups of Theodore M. Berry and fellow Alpha, Thurgood Marshall at the 1935 convention

The following is a scanned version of a debate speech on the Constitution given by Theodore Berry at an contest held annually between the Alpha Alpha (University of Cincinnati) and Kappa (The Ohio State University) chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha. The collection also contains Berry’s speech from 1926. The University of Cincinnati’s Alpha Alpha won 3:0 in 1926 and 2:1 in 1927.

For more information about the history of Greek organizations at UC, including the UC chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha please see Janice Schulz’s exhibit Going Greek: Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $61,287 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the Archives and Records Administration to fully process the Theodore M. Berry Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library.  All information and opinions published on the Berry project website and in the blog entries are those of the individuals involved in the grant project and do not reflect those of the National Archives and Records Administration.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of NARA.