Professor Gregory Parks co-editor of new book analyzing Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha

This past August, several thousand members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. gathered in Washington, D.C., for the unveiling of a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

Undaunted by Hurricane Irene, civil rights icons, fraternity members, young boys, and old men joined together to pay tribute to one of the champions of racial equality and one of Alpha Phi Alpha’s most influential members. It is not surprising that the fraternity organized the event and was the first group to propose the memorial. The fraternity, the oldest and one of the most important black Greek-letter organizations, has been a champion of civil rights since its inception. From its founding in 1906 at Cornell University, the fraternity has promoted—and delivered—distinction, achievement, and tradition.

In Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence, editors Gregory S. Parks and Stefan M. Bradley have gathered experts from both inside and outside the organization to investigate whether the fraternity continues to live up to the lofty standards set by its founders. Its seven founding members preached ideals of personal excellence, academic accomplishment, and the strengthening of racial identity. The book covers the history of Alpha Phi Alpha as well as challenges the organization faces today. Contributors also make suggestions for how future members can work to uphold the beliefs that have been promoted for more than 100 years.

Parks, assistant professor of law at Wake Forest University School of Law, is coeditor of African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision and editor of Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun. Bradley, associate professor of history and African American studies at Saint Louis University, is the author of Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s.

Parks and Bradley begin with a look at Alpha’s image and history, establishing how the fraternity was founded and analyzing the identity that distinguishes membership as well as the specific men who shaped that identity. Parks and Joanna Hunter’s chapter, “The Complexities of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Contemporary Image Projection,” expands upon the fraternity’s initial identity to analyze how the group presents itself and is seen today. “Those Who Carried the Torch: The General Presidents of Alpha Phi Alpha” by Andre McKenzie profiles the organization’s national leadership through the years.

Contributors also explore how the organization upholds its core principles and confronts difficulties. In Ralph E. Johnson, Crystal Chambers, and MaryBeth Walpole’s chapter “The Quest for Excellence: Reviewing Alpha’s Legacy of Academic Achievement,” the authors analyze the intellectual standards put forth by the fraternity’s founding members. “Alpha Phi Alpha, the Fight for Civil Rights, and the Shaping of Public Policy” by Robert E. Weems Jr. turns toward the organization’s influence on the country as a whole, charting its involvement in politics and activism that continues today. To conclude the volume, new practices in the fraternity are examined. “The Harms and Hazards of Hazing: Medical, Sociocultural, and Legal Perspectives” shows how Alpha is dealing with this all-too-prevalent problem that plagues many Greek-letter organizations.

Throughout the collection, Alpha Phi Alpha is evaluated based on its original values of philanthropy, public policy, academic achievement, and racial pride. While these core beliefs have changed over the years to reflect social and political developments, they remain the central tenets of the fraternity. The organization is analyzed from a historical perspective to provide insight to its current practices. In examining the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the volume draws conclusions that can be applied more broadly to all black Greek-letter organizations in their quest for excellence.

The  book will be available for purchase on Amazon beginning Jan. 4, 2012.