Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was founded on January 15, 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. Its founders were among the fewer than 1,000 Negroes enrolled in higher education institutions in 1908 and the 25 women who received Bachelor of Arts degrees from Howard University between 1908 and 1911. Nine juniors and seniors who constituted the initial core group of founding members and seven sophomores who were extended an invitation for membership without initiation comprised what are acknowledged as Alpha Kappa Alpha’s original 16 founders. Led by Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle), the nine Howard University students who came together to form Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority were the scholastic leaders of their classes. Each also had a special talent or gift that further enhanced the potential of this dynamic group.
The Original Nine: Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle), Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe and Marie Woolfolk (Taylor)
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® was founded on a mission comprised of five basic tenets that have remained unchanged since the sorority’s inception more than a century ago. Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of “Service to All Mankind".
The small group of women who founded Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the turn of the last century were conscious of their privileged position as college-trained women of color just one generation removed from slavery. But at the same time, they were sensitive to the needs and struggles of the less fortunate in underserved communities in their hometowns and in other environs beyond their travels who were in need of goods, services and opportunities beyond their reach.
The young collegians’ commitment to scholarship, leadership, civic engagement and public service, woven together by the bonds of lifelong sisterhood, formed the bedrock of the rich legacy of servant-leadership that epitomizes the sorority to this day. And the global reach of its programs, laser-focused on the health, wealth, family, education, human rights and parity issues that concern its constituents, ensures the relevance of the organization into perpetuity.