A Brief History
Kappa Alpha Psi, a college fraternity, now comprised of functioning undergraduate and alumni chapters on major campuses and in cities throughout the country and the world, is the crystallization of a dream. It is the beautiful realization of a vision shared commonly by the late revered Founders.
Black-sponsored Greek letter organizations on the Indiana University campus might well have begun in 1903, but there were too few registrants to assure a continuing organization. In that year, a club was formed called Alpha Kappa Nu with the purpose of strengthening the voice of Blacks at the university. The club disappeared after a short time. There is no record of any similar organization at Indiana until ten astute African-American college students, on the night of January 5, 1911, sowed the seed of a fraternal tree whose fruit is available to, and now enjoyed by, college men everywhere, regardless of their color, religion or national origin:
Elder Watson Diggs, “The Dreamer”
John Milton Lee
Byron K. Armstrong
Guy Levis Grant
Ezra D. Alexander
Henry T. Asher
Marcus P. Blakemore
Paul Waymond Caine
Edward G. Irvin
George W. Edmonds
During this time there were very few African-American students at the predominately White campus due to the Jim Crow laws. African Americans students rarely saw each other on campus and were discriminated from attending student functions and extra-curricular activities by the college administration and student body. They were also denied participation on athletic teams, with the exception of track and field. The racial prejudice and discrimination encountered by the Founders strengthened their bond and interest in starting a social group. From the beginning, the Founders’ goal was to create a Fraternity founded on Christian ideals and the fundamental purpose of achievement.
The Fraternity was chartered and incorporated originally under the laws of the State of Indiana as Kappa Alpha Nu on April 15, 1911. There is no evidence as to why the greek letters Kappa Alpha Nu were chosen, but the name became an ethnic slur among racist factions. Founder Elder Diggs, while observing a young initiate compete in a track meet, overheard fans referring to the member as a “Kappa Alpha Nigger,” and a campaign to rename the Fraternity ensued. The name was changed to Kappa Alpha Psi on a resolution offered and adopted at the Grand Chapter in December 1914. This change became effective April 15, 1915, on a proclamation by the then Grand Polemarch, Elder Watson Diggs. Thus, the name acquired a distinctive Greek letter symbol and Kappa Alpha Psi thereby became a Greek letter fraternity in every sense on the designation.
The Ten Illustrious Founders gave birth to a great concept, the idea that if we are going to be brothers, let us be brothers on the best terms that we know. If we are going to bind ourselves together, let it be around something that is strong enough to hold us; if we are going to sing, let us sing about something that will have a lasting refrain; if we drink a toast, let it be of something beyond the trivial and the vulgar; let us exalt the theme of achievement. Reliance would be placed upon high Christian ideals and the purpose of honorable achievement in every field of human endeavor. The Fraternity would seek to raise the sights of young Black youths and stimulate them to accomplishments higher than might otherwise not be realized or even imagined.
Excerpts taken from “The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi”