When it comes to collegiate fraternities and sororities, Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) emerged in the early 20th century due to the discrimination that many black people were facing within the United States at the time, especially in higher education.
The inclusion of African-Americans in universities proved to be trying times for these students due to how often they were ostracized and banned from joining many social organizations. Alpha Phi Alpha was the first successful fraternity to sustain its membership and expand.
They initially started as a study and support group for the black male students at Cornell University who were facing harsh racial prejudice at the time. Eight other collegiate fraternities and sororities were founded on the similar principles of service and the betterment of black men and women.
The Divine Nine
These nine organizations make up the Divine Nine:
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University
- Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University
- Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University
- Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University
From there, other ethnic groups such as Latinx and Asian groups saw the benefits of BGLOs for the black communities, and wanted to establish something similar of their own. Multicultural Greek Organizations were then born.
Multicultural Greek Organization
A Multicultural Greek Organization is similar to a BGLO in that these groups also have an ethnic interest such as a Latino interest fraternity/sorority or an Asian interest fraternity/sorority.
What is important to remember about these groups is that they are not exclusively meant for these ethnic or racial groups, but are open to those committed enough to join, but still provide a space of support for the groups they were meant.
Although not well-known, ethnic-based fraternities and sororities differentiate from the traditional ones often portrayed negatively by the media. These organizations also usually have smaller numbers in membership, are typically younger in established years, and are comprised of a very diverse type of membership — racially, ethnically and socio-economically.
Hidden diversity in ethnic-based fraternities
Ethnic-based collegiate Greek life is also one of the best examples to find hidden diversity within higher education in the United States.
Although in many groups that are interest-based in one ethnic or racial group, Latinx, Black/African American, or Asian for example, there are many students who join these groups but do not identify with the identity the organization was created for.
Similarly, there are many students who do identify with these identities but do not seem like they would at first glance based on their appearance. A seemingly Asian woman can join a Latina sorority but actually identify as Italian. On the other hand, a Mexican can join a Black/African American fraternity because he identifies with their values and purpose more than a different Latino fraternity.
This is important because for those students who then leave the United States in the future, they are already more culturally enriched than someone who never participated in those organizations.