Lifting as we Climb
-Mary Church Terrell
THE HISTORY OF OMEGA PSI PHI FRATERNITY, INC.
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college.
On the evening of November 17, 1911, Omega Psi Phi was founded inside the Science Building (later renamed Thirkield Hall) at Howard University located in Washington, D.C. The founders were three undergraduates — Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman. Joining them was their faculty adviser, Ernest Everett Just.
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, Edgar A. Love became the first Grand Basileus (National President). Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman were selected to be the Grand Keeper of the Records (National Secretary) and Grand Keeper of Seals (National Treasurer), respectively. Eleven undergraduate men were selected to become the charter members.
Alpha chapter was organized with fourteen charter members on December 15, 1911. Brothers Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman were elected the chapter’s first Basileus, Keeper of Records, and Keeper of Seals, respectively.
Brother Cooper became the fraternity’s second Grand Basileus in 1912 and authorized the investigation of establishing a second chapter on the campus of Lincoln University located in Pennsylvania.
Brother 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 accept limited recognition. As a result, the fraternity operated without official sanction, until the university withdrew its opposition in 1914, the same year Beta chapter was chartered at Lincoln University.
Omega Psi Phi was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914. Brother George E. Hall, the fourth Grand Basileus, authorized the establishment of Gamma chapter in Boston.
Brother Clarence F. Holmes served as Omega’s sixth Grand Basileus. Under his leadership, the fraternity’s first official hymn, “Omega Men Draw Nigh,” was written by Otto Bohannon.
Omega played a vital role when the United States entered World War I in 1917 by having several brothers in the first class of black soldiers graduate from Camp Fort Des Moines, a military training facility located in Iowa. Several Omegas, including Campbell C. Johnson, John Purnell and founders Frank Coleman and Edgar A. Love are among its graduates.
A year later in 1918, retired Colonel Charles Young, rode 500 miles on horseback, from Wilberforce, Ohio, to the nation’s capital, to show he was always fit for duty.
Stanley Douglas served as editor to the first Oracle which was published in the spring of 1919.
In 1919, Raymond G. Robinson, the seventh Grand Basileus, established Delta chapter on the campus of Meharry Medical School which is located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Stanley Douglas served as Editor of the Oracle which was first published in the spring of 1919. When Robinson left office in 1920 there were ten chapters in operation.
Harold H. Thomas, the eighth Grand Basileus, was elected at the Nashville Grand Conclave in 1920.
During this Conclave, 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 an end the fraternity’s first decade.
Omega built a strong and effective force of men dedicated to its cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.