34th Grand Conclave – Dec. 27-30, 1947 Detroit, MI – Talented Tenth
(Founders : Hon. Bishop Edgar A. Love & Hon. Dr. Oscar J. Cooper, lt & rt center)
“Talented” 10th District History
The 10th District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. respectfully refers to itself as the “Talented Tenth”. This is not an idle play on words. The rich history of the District and its Chapters bears out that fact. Even though one would consider us a “small District” our accomplishments says otherwise. The 10th District was the cradle of advanced education for four of our most distinguished members who attended the University of Chicago: Founder Dr. Ernest Everett Just (1916), Founder Professor Frank Coleman, Carter G. Woodson (1908), and Benjamin Mayes (1935). Brother Woodson created the Association for the Study of Life and History in 1915 at the Wabash Y located in the city of Chicago, which later became the forerunner of Black History Month. It was at this location that one of the oldest Chapters in the district, initially Sigma Chapter (1921) held its first meetings. In 1923 the Fraternity decided that all graduate chapters should have Omega at the end of them. Thus Sigma became Sigma Omega Chapter In 1923. The uniqueness of the District can be found in the story of “Sigma Chapter”
The name Sigma has not been so stable and has had many travels since its inception in Chicago. In 1923, Sigma was given to a new Chapter at the University of Chicago, later that same year Sigma Chapter became Iota Chapter. In December of that very same year 1923, Sigma was given to a new chapter at McGill University in Montreal Quebec Canada and thus becoming the first international Chapter in the fraternity. Finally, in 1961, the name Sigma was given to a newly formed chapter at Michigan State University.
The roots of the 10th District run deep as having three of Omega’s first single lettered undergraduate Chapters, Xi Chapter at the University of Minnesota, Sigma Chapter at Michigan State, and Phi Chapter at the University of Michigan, along with Iota Chapter, formerly the undergraduate chapter at the University of Chicago. Those roots have produced much fruit to make the “Talented Tenth” arguably one of Omega’s premier districts.
A meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1928 that led to the formation of the Pan Hellenic Council, which is affectionately called the “Divine Nine” which give credence to the history of the District as being the beginning of many “first” as it relates to the history of African Americans.
The roots produced, and the fruit grew from the first formal District Meeting held at the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 12-13 1937. With Grand Basileus Baugh in attendance, Brother Charles E. Harry presided over that gathering of five chapters: Iota from Chicago, Phi from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor, Nu Omega from Detroit, Sigma Omega from Chicago, and Zeta Phi from Indianapolis. A quote from the minutes state,
“Where we as delegates to the Tenth District Conference of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity have met and discussed issues vital to the general welfare of the Fraternity, as well as the Negro population to such an extent that there has resulted in much enlightenment and a need for a coordinated effort evidenced by all assembled. We do resolve that the delegates to the first conference of the Tenth District go on record as recommending that there be a continuation of such conferences” – Brother Nelson Harris, 1937.
History records that the District’s first appointment as Representative was Brother Francis Dent, credited with chartering Nu Omega Chapter in Detroit Michigan in 1923. Its first elected Representative was Brother Charles E. Harry III, a charter member of Zeta Phi.
At the 57th Grand Conclave, Bro. Brunel E. Coulon was elected First Vice Grand Basileus, in Atlanta, Georgia. After serving two terms, Bro. Coulon elected as the 31st Grand Basileus on the first ballot during the 1979 Grand Conclave in Denver, Colorado.
Although the 10th District originally was comprised of the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan; Minnesota and Wisconsin were later added to its ranks. The 10th District has served the Fraternity by having five Grand Basilei to lead Omega, and have hosted eleven Grand Conclaves.