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SIGMA Time Line
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Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
1910 - . . .
A Historical Time Line

Summer 1910

Abram Langston Taylor has the idea to form a fraternity after a conversation with a recent Howard University graduate, in his home town of Memphis, TN

 

November 23, 1910

A. L. Taylor enters Howard University as a special student

 

Spring 1911

A. L. Taylor begins to lay plan to carry out his vision

 

October 18, 1913

A. L. Taylor & Leonard Francis Morse have first conversation about forming a fraternity. They agree on Charles I. Brown as the third member of the founding group

 

November 2, 1913

1st meeting of the Organization Committee in A. L. Taylors home

 

November / December 1913

9 students are accepted for membership and plans for the Fraternity are made

 

January 9, 1914 / Friday evening

Fraternity Founded at the 12th Street Y.M.C.A. in Washington, D.C./Bowen Room

 

Abram Langston Taylor

1st President of National Organization

 

Leonard Francis Morse

1st President of Alpha Chapter ( Howard University )

 

April 15, 1914

Fraternity recognized by Howard University Board

 

May 4, 1914

1st Initiation took place at 2226 Sixth Street, NW. Fourteen men went through

                * Abraham McCartney Walker being the 1st to cross The Burning Sands

 

May 18, 1914

1st Fraternity Smoker at home of Bro. Harry M. Martin

 

Summer 1914

The 1st Fraternity House was secured by Ivorite L. Scruggs in the summer of 1914. The three story brick house was the largest of any of the Howard University chapter houses. Brothers moved in  during September 1914

 

1914

Fraternity would get its hymn, lyrics by I. L. Scruggs

Fraternity would get its seal, by W. E. Tibbs

 

1914 1915

The first two years would find the Fraternity :

                Organize and maintain Sunday School with Bro. A. H. Brown as teacher

                Open a well-equipped library and art gallery to the public

                Founded the Benjamin Banneker Research Society

                Organize the Washington Art Club

 

1914 1915 The Brothers would throw their weight around in student activities immediately:

The prize was The Howard University Journal,  A. M. Walker was elected Associate Editor.

( 1915 would have Walker elected Editor-in-Chief, with A. L. Taylor as Circulation Manager. The twin victory broke the hold of another campus group )

W. F. Vincent was President of the Debating Society

William H. Foster was President of the college YMCA

John Berry was President of the Political Science club

John Camper,All-American, was captain of the football team on which J. House Franklin was also a star

Earl Lawson was President of the Athletic Association

And other Bros. were scattered about in various class and extra-curricula organizations.

 

Spring 1915

The Fraternity decided to invite to membership certain professors

                Dr. Edward P. Davis German language scholar, later Dean of The College of Liberal Arts

                Dr. Thomas W. Turner Nationally known botanist, 1st African-American to win the Ph.D. in Botany, later the head of the Department of Botany at Hampton Institute

                T. Montgomery Gregory Author, play director, played key role in opening up officer training to qualified African - American during WWI

                Alain L. Locke 1st African - American Rhodes Scholar, author, philosopher, critic

 

March 5, 1915

Herbert L. Stevens was made becoming the 1st Graduate Brother

 

November 13, 1915

Beta Chapter Founded at Wiley College / Texas by Herbert L. Stevens

                * Beta is the 1st Chapter of an African-American greek letter organization south of Richmond, VA

 

December 11, 1915

Letter from Elder W. Diggs / Kappa Alpha Psi inviting  SIGMA to merge with KAPPA

* At the time KAPPA was expanding in the Midwest and SIGMA in the East and South

 

December 18, 1915

A. L. Taylor sends letter to Elder Diggs respectfully declining the offer to merge

 

December 28 - 29, 1916

1st Conclave at Fraternity House / 1907 Third Street, NW

*              3 Chapters ( Alpha/Howard Beta/Wiley Gamma/Morgan State ) & 200 members

 

1916 Conclave / Washington, DC

W. F. Vincent voted in as National Editor and a publication was authorized

The Fraternity had its pins, its seal, its flower, its colors, its motto and its song by this time

 

1916

Charles I. Brown founded Delta Chapter at Kansas State College @ Manhattan

*              The first SIGMA chapter at a racially mixed school

 

 

1917

While boarding a train back to his home in Oklahoma W. F. Vincent said, Taylor, carry on for SIGMA, until we meet again Bro. Vincent would pass on and never return to Washington, DC

 

* 1917 and 1918

No Conclaves due to World War I

 

1919

The General Board would re-organize as a result of death and other dislocations. This resulting, in part, from WWI. President I. L. Scruggs would ask A. L. Taylor to contact the Brothers as soon as they re-appeared in civilian clothes

 

May 4, 1919

A. L. Taylor wrote letters to Beta Chapter (Wiley College) and Delta Chapter (Kansas State College) in an attempt to track down the membership

 

June 1919 / After WWI

Fraternity House now located at 325 Tea Street, NW in Washington D.C.

 

1919 Conclave / Washington, DC

Authorization given to A. L. Taylor to assist in the organization of what became a few weeks later Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

 

January 16, 1920

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. is Founded at Howard University

 

April 29, 1920

Phi Beta Sigma certificate of incorporation is recorded (No. 15696)

*              Was submitted on January 31, 1920

 

October 12, 1920

In a letter containing four recommendations from the National Board on constitutional changes, one suggested that a permanent headquarters be established in Washington, DC

 

November 1921

Volume 1, Number 1 of Phi Beta Sigma Journal / Official Organ

*              Eugene Thomas Alexander Editor

 

1921 Conclave / Atlanta, Georgia

SIGMAS and OMEGAS called for an inter-fraternity conference

 

April 17 - 19, 1922

1st Inter-Fraternity Council meeting in Washington, D.C. / Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity & Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

 

1924

Clean Speech movement was adopted as the 1st National Program

 

March 24, 1924

Phi Beta Sigma Journal changed to The Crescent Magazine

*              New name suggested by Mu Chapter at Lincoln University. The Bros. liked it for its symbolism of the East and because it honored the pledgee, the real future of the Fraternity

 

1924 Conclave / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Introduction of the Bigger & Better Negro Business idea was made by way of an exhibit devoted to the topic

*              Bigger & Better Business would be voted in as a program of the Fraternity at the Richmond, VA Conclave in 1925

 

1926

Fraternity House purchased through President Arthur W. Mitchell on Thirteenth St., NW in Washington, DC

 

1927

William H. Foster created the melody to the Fraternity Hymn. He would present it to the Brothers at the 1929 Conclave in New York

 

1927 Conclave / St. Louis, Missouri

*              The SIGMA Kingdom was divided into 4 Regions with a director of each Region. These directors were the 4 Vice-Presidents ( Eastern, Northern, Southern & Western )

*              The post of Field Secretary & Assistant- Secretary-Treasurer were abolished

 

1928 Conclave / Louisville, Kentucky

*              Branding with a hot iron as part of initiation was disapproved

*              Omega was the name given to Chapter for Brothers who pass away

 

1929 Conclave / New York, New York

*              Distinguished Service Chapter was created. Jesse W. Lewis was voted in as the 1st member

*              Duties of Directors of Education and Business added to the Constitution

*              New melody of the Fraternity Hymn was adopted, written by William H. Foster

*              Dr. Carter G. Woodson spoke and indicated a willingness to join SIGMA. This was not possible due to his being an honorary member of another fraternity, with which he had subsequently fallen out

 

Fall 1929 Stock Market Crash

SIGMA shared the common fate of all. The Fraternity saw its income shrink and, before it was all over, almost disappear completely. And when the banks failed, or closed, the deposits of the Fraternity were frozen

 

February 25, 1930 / New York City

General Board met and followed out the 1929 New York Conclave mandate by appointing Zaid D. Lenoir (VP of Western Region) Director of Education & Dr. T. H. Wright (VP of Eastern Region) Director of Bigger and Better Business

 

 1930 Conclave / Tuskegee, Alabama

*              Vice President C. L. Roberts of the Northern Region suggested the Conclaves be held biannually instead of annually. This was during the depression era, and his suggestion was a sign of things to come

*              Brother George Washington Carver addressed the Conclave with an emotional speech

 

* 1931 and 1932

No Conclaves due to the Great Depression

 

Summer 1931

The Brotherhood, with the rest of the nation, had come face to face with the depression.  Due to the financial condition of many the Board concluded it was best to cancel the 1931 Conclave stated for Nashville, Tennessee. It would be announced in the December 1931 CRESCENT Magazine

 

1932

No Conclave held or CRESCENT published due to the depression

The President and other officers sent out circular letters to fill the vacuum

 

December 1933 CRESCENT Magazine

President Arthur Mitchell called for a Conclave in Chicago to be held in 1933

 

1933 Conclave / Chicago, Illinois

*              Fraternity membership expenses were decreased

*              Individual tax on graduate and undergraduate Brothers was dropped

 

1934 Conclave / Washington, DC

*              A. L. Taylor returned to the front to lend a hand, after years on the sideline

*              The Secretary-Treasurer noted the revival of interest on the part of Chapters and Brothers, financially speaking

*              Annual Conclave voted back in, instead of biennial

*              The idea for a Social Action program was introduced by Brothers from Manhattan New York

* The idea was accepted and Emmett May was made its 1st Director

*              Conclave voted that no officer should succeed himself more than once

 

February 2, 1935 Board Meeting / Washington, DC

The need for a History was discussed

 

March 1935 CRESCENT Magazine

*              A. L. Taylor wrote a 3 page outline history of the Fraternity. This carried the story from the beginning to the 1925 Conclave

*              An editorial column called upon all Chapters and Brothers to help preserve and send in to a central depository, minutes, memoirs, early CRESCENTS, photos and other materials for a Fraternity history

 

December 1935 CRESCENT Magazine

Leonard F. Morse wrote a short essay, After Twenty Years. He also gave a personal note, accounting for his absence from the center of Fraternity life. The time was spent in Louisiana, Alabama & Florida directing schools and pastoring churches

 

1935 Conclave / Atlanta, Georgia

*              Southern Region was split giving the Fraternity 5 Regions ( Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern and the new Central Region )

*              Omega Psi Phi also met in Atlanta, repeating the previous historical situation of 14 years before. Two of OMEGAS Founders, Dr. Oscar J. Cooper & Dr. Edgar A. Love personally visited the SIGMA Conclave to extend greetings. SIGMA and OMEGA seemed to get along well.

 

February 15, 1936 Board Meeting / Chicago, Illinois

*              National Negro Congress & The Board of Phi Beta Sigma would meet in Chicago. It was planned this way so certain National Officers could attend both gatherings

*              Active membership in the Pan-Hellenic Council voted

*              Permission granted for mixed chapter of graduate and undergraduate Brothers approved in New York. Chapter would loose its charter at 1936 Conclave / New York due to jurisdiction disputes

*              Northern Region was changed to Northwestern & Western Region changed to Southwestern

 

February 14 16, 1936

National Negro Congress Meeting SIGMA played a big hand. Brothers ran many of the sessions, were delegates and had a say in policy and procedure. Bro. A. Philip Randolph, although too ill to attend, was elected President of the permanent organization

 

1936

Blue Feather, Southern region newsletter 1st published

 

1936 Conclave / New York City

*              Phi Beta Sigma Conclave & Zeta Phi Beta Boule both in New York

* Local Fraternity & Sorority Chapters published a SIGMA-ZETA, Conclave-Boule souvenir program

* Several joint public affairs were held

*              R. A. Billings had a plan for a supervisor for each state of each Region

 

1937 Conclave / Detroit, Michigan

*              Support for the NAACP, National Bar Association, National Urban League & National Pan-Hellenic Council was voted

*              Social Action platform called for equalization of educational opportunity for Negros, including teachers salaries

*              President James W. Johnson broke the Conclave down into 14 committees that would handle most of the business

 

1938

Several newsletters 1st published to fill vacuum until The CRESCENT Magazine published

                SIGMA Light Northern Region

                Contact Central region

                Pathfinder Eastern Region

 

1938 Conclave / Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Written into By-laws that all Fraternity Pins are ultimately the property of the Fraternity

 

1939

A special search was made for The Lost Founder Charles I. Brown in preparation for the Silver Anniversary (25 year), with no luck

 

1939 Conclave / Washington, DC                                    * 25th Anniversary Conclave

Conclave headquarters were in the Terrell Law School, 1922 Thirteenth St., NW. The law school was named after Bro. Robert H. Terrell. ( This was the old Washington Frat. House). Most business sessions were held on the Howard University campus

 

1940 Conclave / Tuskegee, Alabama

*              A special session was devoted and run by the undergraduate Brothers

* The college men wanted more of a choice in Fraternity affairs, a Frat. History, more visits from national officers and closer harmony with graduate Brothers

*              George Washington Carver spoke to the Brothers and was happy to see so many at the Conclave

*              Bro. Carver invited all Brothers to visit his museum on the Tuskegee campus

 

1941 Conclave / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Fraternity became a permanent member of the National Negro Business League

 

* 1942 and 1943

No Conclaves due to World War II

 

1943

Although there was no Conclave, due to WWII, the chapters of the Eastern Region were able to gather about 100 Brothers at the Robert Gould Shaw House in Boston

 

1944 Conclave / Chicago, Illinois

*              1st spring time Conclave in history

*              Support of United Negro College Fund was pledged

 

1945 Conclave / St. Louis, Missouri

*              Conclave established the position of paid Executive Secretary

*              A. Langston Taylor appointed Chairman of a committee asked to write the Fraternity History

History Committee Members: A. L. Taylor, J. O. Walker, J. Edgar Smith, W. Sherman Savage, Monroe W. Work, L. D. Reddick

*              Zeta Phi Beta would also meet in St. Louis. A joint committee of Bros. and Sorors. Made plans for the social and public programs to be held together

 

1946

*              Sigma Light first published

* There were sections on the history, symbolism, philosophy, programs and regulations of members and pledgees. It answered most of the questions a member of the Crescent Club needed to know

*              Regional Vice Presidents are now Regional Directors elected by the Region not the Conclave

*              The 1st Fraternity Office is located at 2009 North Ave., Richmond, VA

 

March 15, 1946

Lynwood W. Brown becomes 1st Executive Secretary at $200.00/month

 

1946 Conclave / New Orleans, Louisiana

*              Among many declarations of the Resolutions Committee was a demand that the United Nations Organization assume immediate jurisdiction in the matter of racial discrimination in America, and take all necessary steps to insure for all Americans equal rights proclaimed in its Charter

*              Clarence Muse (Director of the Western region) reported an interracial chapter at the University of Southern California

 

1947 Conclave / Atlanta, Georgia

The Regions were now 9 in  number

*              Eastern, Central, Lone Star, Southern, Southwestern, Northwestern, Northern, Southeastern & Western

 

January 16, 1949

*              Willam E. Doar becomes the 2nd National Executive Secretary

*              The CRESCENT Magazine ran 104 pages and was a special edition reflecting on the first 35 years of the Fraternitys growth. It was the nearest thing to a history the Fraternity had produced. Lawrence Dunbar Reddick was the Editor

 

1949 35th Anniversary Conclave / Washington, DC

*              Nnamdi Azikiwe came over from Africa to speak

*              Reunion of A. L. Taylor & Leonard F. Morse

 

1950 Conclave / New York City

Charter granted and presented to a chapter in Monrovia, Liberia

*              Beta Upsilon Sigma

 

1955 / 56

Gamma Nu Sigma Chapter Founded in Geneva, Switzerland

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