Phi Beta Sigma

Phi Beta Sigma

Infobox Fraternity
letters = ΦΒΣ
name = Phi Beta Sigma
motto = "Culture For Service and Service For Humanity"
free_label = Principles
free = Brotherhood, Scholarship, and Service
crest =
founded = Birth date and age|1914|01|9
type = Social
scope = International
JPN, Africa
address = 145 Kennedy Street, NW
city = Washington
state = D.C.
country = USA
chapters = | colors = Royal Blue and
Pure White
free_label = Nickname
free = Sigmas
homepage = [ Phi Beta Sigma Website]
birthplace = Howard University
flower = White Carnation
symbol = Dove
publication= The Crescent

Phi Beta Sigma (ΦΒΣ) is a predominately African-American fraternity which was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The founders A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service.

The History of the Fraternity

The Founding of the Fraternity

On January 9, 1914, the permanent organization of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was established on the campus of Howard University, in Washington D.C., A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown. Taylor, Morse, and Brown chose 9 associates to assist them with the creation of the fraternity. When the first initiation was performed, it brought in 14 new members and Alpha chapter was then organized. During the summer of 1914, through the efforts of Sigma charter member I.L. Scruggs, the Alpha chapter was able to move into the largest fraternity house of any African American fraternity in Washington D.C. only five months after its charter of organization was granted.

Seeking to further its intellectual pool several affluent African American scholars, Dr. Edward P. Davis, Dr. Thomas W. Turner, T.M. Gregory, and Dr. Alain Leroy Locke, were inducted into the fraternity.

World War I and the Sigma Call to Arms

Phi Beta Sigma responded to a "call to arms" in 1917 as the United States entered the First World War. The chapters of Sigma were so depleted that only the Alpha Chapter showed any signs of activity and the National Office ceased to function. A. Langston Taylor called on the National Board to fill the vacancies created by the "Call to Arms." By June 1919, all chapters were reactivated except Beta Chapter at Wiley College, where the National Office experienced great difficultty locating Sigma men. It was through the efforts of Taylor that the fraternity was able to continue to operate financially as numerous Sigma men served on the European battle front. [Ibed. page 8]

1920 - The Founding of Zeta Phi Beta

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was organized at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., on January 16, 1920. The founders and charter members of the Sorority consisted of Arizona Cleaver, Viola Tyler, Myrtle Tyler, Pearl Neal, and Fannie Pettiwatts. (Significantly enough, a sister relationship — a one — already existed between Viola Tyler and Myrtle Tyler.) It is indeed interesting to note further that there were two men of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Charles Robert Samuel Taylor and A. Langston Taylor, who assisted the “Five Pearls” in organizing the sisterhood. In fact, the interest manifested by the Taylors and the enthusiasm, energy, and ability exhibited by Arizona Cleaver provided the cornerstone for the building of the Sorority. ["Reprints from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority", 1920-1965 (A History) Pages 71 - 74 of The Sigma Light (1980)]

Phi Beta Sigma member Charles R. Taylor, who was instrumental in assisting with the founding of Zeta Phi Beta, made the following comments in the 1959 Fall Crescent Magazine.

:"Arizona Cleaver was the chief builder and she asked fourteen others to join her. I shall never forget the first meetings held in dormitory rooms of Miner Hall. Miss Hardwick, the matron, never knew I was about until I was escorted out by Arizona, who was her assistant. I was Miss Hardwick’s favorite boy."

:"As National Executive Secretary of Phi Beta Sigma, I wrote to the officers of every Sigma Chapter requesting the establishment of a sister organization. There was quick response — so, in addition to the Alpha Chapter, at Howard; Beta, Morris Brown University; Gamma, Morgan College (Gamma was a second Chapter, so named because they wished to carry the same name as the Sigma Chapter on Morgan’s Campus); Delta, Kansas City State College; and Epsilon, New York City, were started by ardent brothers who saw the good in my meditations and in the work done by those first faithful sisters: Arizona Cleaver, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, Fannie Pettie and Pearl Neal. Following a formal introduction given by Brother A. Langston Taylor and me at the Whitelaw Hotel, they were also welcomed on the campus by the Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Delta Sigma Theta Sororities. Our first joint formal, Feb. 21, 1921, at the White-law Hotel, was a gala affair." ["In The Beginning", by Charles Robert Taylor, Reprint from The Cresent, Fall, 1959, Page 72 of The Sigma Light (1980)]

One of the more recent views about the connection between Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta was summed up in poetic piece by Ahab El'Askeni one of the writers of the Temple of Blue in the following way.

:"Those within or outside of the blue & white family always seem to get hung up one issue in particular when it comes to Sigma and Zeta. That is, "How does the bond shared between Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta stands out from any the bonds that are claimed by other Black Greek Lettered Organizations?" Well, we do have a reason to love and respect our sorors as we LOVE and respect our brothers. We have a common history, which must be at least recognized and acknowledged before one can truly be called Sigma or Zeta. The Zeta Phi Beta Sigma bond gives me, a brother of Sigma, the ability to love my sorors as I love myself and all of mine." ["The Sigma and Zeta Bond", by Ahab El'Askeni, excerpt from The Temple of Blue [] ]

Purpose of the fraternity

The founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as "a part of" the general community rather than "apart from" the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits rather than his family background or affluence...without regard of race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. They wished and wanted their fraternity to exist as part of even a greater brotherhood which would be devoted to the "inclusive we" rather than the "exclusive we".

From its inception, the Founders also conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Rather than gaining skills to be utilized exclusively for themselves and their immediate families, the founders of Phi Beta Sigma held a deep conviction that they should return their newly acquired skills to the communities from which they had come. This deep conviction was mirrored in the Fraternity's motto, "Culture For Service and Service For Humanity".

Today, Phi Beta Sigma has blossomed into an international organization of leaders. The fraternity has experienced unprecedented growth and continues to be a leader among issues of social justice as well as proponent of the African American community. No longer a single entity, the Fraternity has now established the "Phi Beta Sigma Educational Foundation", the "Phi Beta Sigma Housing Foundation", the "Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union" a notable youth auxiliary program, "The Sigma Beta Club" and the "Phi Beta Sigma Charitable Outreach Foundation". Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, founded in 1920 is the fraternity's sister organization. The fraternity is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a coordinating organization of nine (historically-Black) international Greek letter sororities and fraternities.

Fraternity Mission Statement

The members of Phi Beta Sigma are the Fraternity's most valuable resource and strength. They are the primary means by which Phi Beta Sigma objectives will be achieved. In Order to accomplish the Fraternity's objectives, it is essential that systems are instituted that effectively embody "Culture For Service and Service For Humanity" and promote Brotherhood Scholarship, and Service.

To optimize Phi Beta Sigma's effectiveness, the Fraternity will:

*Strengthen and serve proactively, the Brotherhood. as a supportive resource that positively impacts the Fraternity's growth and financial solvency.

*Reaffirm and maintain a strong commitment to Brotherhood. Scholarship and Service.

*Ensure that the Fraternity programs are focused and committed to serving humanity.

*Create an environment that respects the dignity and worth of each brother.

*Exhibit integrity and ethical behavior in conducting the Fraternity's business. serving as a model for all Greek-letter organizations,

*Maintain and improve the Fraternity's technological literacy in order to better service its members and the community at large.

*Foster and nurture our constitutional bond with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

*Encourage a closer and mutually beneficial working relationship with fellow Greek-letter organizations, other community service organizations, business and government.

*Select leaders who are committed and have demonstrated the ability to "lead". [Sigma Mission, Alpha Alpha Delta Chapter Web-Site,]

The philosophy of the fraternity is further cryztalized in the following statement from Sigma Light.

:"Finally, the great end of Sigma is service, service not only for the Fraternity, but for the general welfare of the society in which we live... symbols have no real meaning or function until they are put into everyday practice... Symbols do not make the man, but are meaningful only when the interpretation of these become dynamic factors in determining everyday behavior." . ["The Philosophy of Phi Beta Sigma", Page 17 of The Sigma Light (1980)]

The National Programs

The Birth of Bigger and Better Business

As told by Dr. I.L. Scruggs"Excerpts from Our Cause Speeds On"

:"Philadelphia, 1924, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity 'arrived'. We had a mob of people at this Conclave. There were representatives from twenty-eight chapters -and all the trimmings. The introduction of the Bigger and Better Negro Business idea was made by way of an exhibit devoted to this topic.

:The Bigger and Better Negro Business idea was first tested in 1924 with an imposing exhibition in Philadelphia. This was held in connection with the Conclave. Twenty-five leading Negro Businesses sent statements and over fifty sent exhibits. The whole show took place in the lobby of the YMCA. Several thousand visitors seemed to have been impressed. The response was so great that the 1925 Conclave in Richmond, Virginia voted unanimously to make Bigger and Better Negro Business the public program of the Fraternity, and it has been so ever since."

:Phi Beta Sigma believes that the improvement and economic conditions of minorities is a major factor in the improvement of the general welfare of society. It is upon this conviction that the Bigger and Better Business Program rests. Since 1926, the Bigger and Better Business Program has been sponsored on a national scale by Phi Beta Sigma as a way of supporting, fostering, and promoting minority owned businesses and services. [The Birth of Bigger and Better Business, As told by Dr. I.L. Scruggs, Excerpts from Our Cause Speeds On, by W. Sherman Savage and L.D. Reddick, The Fuller Press, Georgia, 1957 [] ]

The Bigger and Better Business Program shall include the promotion and fostering of ideas fro the effective organization, improvement and expansion of business and the dissemination and propagation of information for the advancement of sound business principles and practices.

*International Bigger and Better Business objectives are as follows:

*Work to increase the asset portfolio and membership of Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union.

*Increase communication with Sigma's in Business.

*Develop a signature International Bigger and Better Business program.

*Promote & Support Small and Minority Business in our communities.

*Identify and develop National Partnerships. [Bigger and Better Business Mission, [] ]

Project S.E.E.D. (Sigma Economic Empowerment Development) is a Bigger and Better Business Program. The program was developed to help the membership focus on two important areas: Financial Management and Homeownership. The objectives of Project S.E.E.D. are as follows:

* Provide useful information in the area of financial management and home ownership that will benefit the membership, their families, and the communities in which Sigma Brothers live;

* Provide a program that can be implemented at the national, regional and state levels by both alumni and collegiate chapters;

* Provide a program that is identifiable to the membership and the community at large; and

* Links Phi Beta Sigma’s programmatic thrust with an economically viable and relevant current concern. [Project S.E.E.D, [] ]


The founders of Phi Beta Sigma were all educators in their own right. The genesis of the Education Program lies in the traditional emphasis that the fraternity places on Education. During the 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri, the fraternity underwent a constitution restructuring after World War II, and this led to the birth of the Education as a National Program.

The National Program of Education focuses on programming and services to graduate and undergraduates in the fraternity. Programs such as scholarships, lectures, college fairs, mentoring, and tutoring enhance this program on local, regional and national levels. [Education Program Web-Site, [] ]


This is the fraternity's ability provide for the mechanism for acquiring the approval of recommendations to the General Board and Conclave on practices related to this office. This also affords for the mechanism and procedure for the dissemination of scholarships to our members. This concept also establishes a national/international "issue focus" (i.e. attrition rates for African-American students and the Disparity of the African-American male college attendance/admission). It also provides for the development of an International Education Council which will operate informally until its potential adoption at the next Conclave (the council will provide assistance to the Office of the International Director of education on infrastructure issues, fund raising proposals and proposal submission, and the execution of the International Educational Programming focus). OPERATION:

This point provides for an increased emphasis on working with our International President concerning the completion of the Sigma Beta Club Foundation. Also, the office would maintain a working relationship with the International Director of Sigma Beta Clubs and offer him our unwavering assistance. EXPANSION of Project S.E.T.:

This allows the office to work cross-functionally with the International Director of Bigger and Better Business on the implementation of five new components to Project S.E.T. (a. job readiness, choosing a career path {3-5 year outlook}, interviewing techniques, negotiating and entrepreneurship). DEVELOPMENT:

This point provides for the development of topics for the oratorical debates and competition on a regional level and during the Conclave year. This academic year's debate question is: "Should state legislatures and the federal government develop laws enacting Race-Free Admissions into colleges and universities." The rules of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate will be the procedure for the debate competition. [Education Programs High Lights, [] ]

The History of Social Action

During the 20th anniversary of Sigma, the Committee on Public Policy urged that the fraternity come forth with a broadly-based program that would be addressed to the problems of the great masses of the Negro people. This new departure, in large measure, grew out of the experiences of the New York group. These men from Manhattan brought with them a new idea, SOCIAL ACTION.

:Phi Beta Sigma has from its very beginning concerned itself with improving the general well-being of minority groups. In 1934, a well-defined program of Social Action was formulated and put into action. Elmo M. Anderson, then president of Epsilon Sigma Chapter (New York) formulated this program calling for the reconstruction of social order. It was a tremendous success. It fit in with the social thinking of the American public in those New Deal years.

:In the winter of 1934, Elmo Anderson, James W. Johnson, Emmett May and Bob Jiggets came down to the Conclave in Washington, D.C. and presented their Social Action proposition, and just the birth of Social Action as a National Program. In addition, Anderson is known in Sigma as "The Father of Social Action". [Excerpts from Our Cause Speeds On and The Crescent 1949 (35th Anniversary Edition)]

The fraternity's current social action programs are the following:

*Project S.W.W.A.C. (Sigmas Waging War Against Cancer) - This program is a is to reduce the incidence of cancer in the African American community. [ [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc ] ]

*Together Preventing Premature Births, Teenage Pregnancy and Building Strong Fathers (Prematurity Program and Project S.A.T.A.P.P.) - This program is a collaborative venture with the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation to address the alarming rise in teenage pregnancy. [ [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc ] ]

*Sigma Wellness Project (Sigma Wellness) - The goal of this program is to focus on living healthier lifestyles through education. [ [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc ] ]

*Project Vote 2006 (Project Vote) - Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity will continue to register and educate citizens to participate in the democratic process. [ [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc ] ]

*Phi Beta Sigma Capitol Hill Summit (Sigma Presence on Capitol Hill) - The goal of this program is to allow Sigma members to the opportunity to discuss the many of the critical issues facing our communities with members of the U.S. Congress. [ [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc ] ]


International Presidents

The Phi Beta Sigma History Museum

The "Sigma History Museum" was created with the express intent to dispel the discrepancies of the fraternity's history. Since 2001,with the help of countless members of Sigma, Family and Friends of Sigma, and the divine intervention of our Founders and Ancestors, members have uncovered some of the most rare and dynamic history of the fraternity to include; never before seen pictures of Founder Taylor, historical pictures from the 1914, 1915, and 1916 yearbooks at Howard University, original letters, Conclave Banners, and interviews with Decatur Morse (our Founder’s son), Samuel Proctor Massie II (our charter members son), Robert L. Pollard II (his father was Col. Robert L. Pollard who joined Sigma in 1919), and Dr. Gregory Tignor (his father was Madison Tignor who joined Sigma in 1919).

The Museum was first displayed in Orlando in 2000. The members assisting in the original effort were Mark Pacich, Louis W. Lubin Jr. and Ahab El’Askeni. The initial goal was to collect as many newspaper articles, Crescent Magazines, Conclave Journals, autographs, pictures, etc. as possible. Since then, the Museum has been displayed in many cities including; Orlando, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, and Las Vegas. The assets of the museum have grown since the initial display in 2000. The most coveted possession yet to be acquired are the first 2 issues of the "Phi Beta Sigma Journal". The museum is only 14 issues away from having every Crescent magazine ever printed. [Sigma Spotlight: Mark Pacich, Phi Beta Sigma International web-site, [] ]

ee also

*Famous Members of Phi Beta Sigma
*Zeta Phi Beta


External links

* [ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity website]

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