As underprivileged peoples around the world continue to struggle for their God-given rights of freedom, justice, equality and human dignity, the Fraternity continues to stand at the forefront of efforts to win those rights. Alpha Phi Alpha today continues in the spirit of leadership the Fraternity has demonstrated since 1906. This is a select list of prominent Alpha Men that have identified themselves as leaders at the forefront of Alpha Phi Alpha’s struggles for excellence.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Civil Rights Activist
- Julius L. Chambers: NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Lester Granger: National Urban League
- W.E.B. Dubois: Writer, Historian, Civil Rights Activist
- Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: Civil Rights Activist
- Thurgood Marshall: Civil Rights Activist, Supreme Court Justice
- Paul Robeson: Activist, Scholar, Singer, Football Player
- Dick Gregory: Activist
- William Gray: United Negro College Fund, Businessman
- Franklin Williams: Phelps-Stokes Fund
- James Check: Howard University
- Thomas W. Cole, Jr.: President, Clark-Atlanta University
- William B. DeLauder: President, Delaware St. University
- John Hope Franklin: Historian
- E. Franklin Frazier: Sociologist
- Dennis Kimbro: Author
- Frederick Patterson: Founder, UNCF
- Dr. Ronald J. Temple: Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago
- Dr. Cornell West: Author / Professor
- Andrew Zawacki: Rhodes Scholar, Author
- Dr. Raymond W. Cannon: 1st Edition, Sphinx Magazine
- Norm Francis: President, Xavier University
- Roscoe Cartwright: General, AUS
- Samuel Gravel: Admiral, USN
- Edward Honor: Major General, AUS
- Fred A. Gorden: Brigadere General
- Samuel Gravely: Admiral
- Benjamin Hacker: Rear Admiral
- Edward Honor: Major General
- James McCall: Major General
- Winston Scott: Commander
- Dr. Lessall D. Leffall: President, American College of Surgeons
- James Comer: Psychologist
- Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Traffic Signal
- Louis Sullivan: Secretary of Health and Education
- Dennis Archer: Mayor of Detroit
- Richard Arrington: Mayor of Birmingham
- Willie Brown: Mayor of San Francisco
- David Dinkins: Former Mayor of New York
- Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver: Mayor of Kansas City
- Chaka Fattah: Congressman, Pennsylvania
- Ernest Finney: South Carolina Supreme Court Justice
- Earl Hilliard: Congressman, Alabama (7th District)
- Maynard Jackson: Former Mayor of Atlanta
- Thurgood Marshall: Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice
- Earnest “Dutch” Morial: 1st Black Mayor of New Orleans
- Marc Morial: Mayor of New Orleans
- Charles Rangel: Congressman, New York (15th District)
- Robert C. Scott: Congressman, Virginia (3rd District)
- Andrew Young: Former Mayor of Atlanta
- Thomas J. Burrell: CEO, Burrell Advertising
- W. Melvin Brown: CEO, American Development Corp.
- John H. Johnson: Entrepreneur
- Delano Lewis: President, National Public Radio
- Henry Parks: Founder, Parks Sausages, Inc.
- Joshua Smith: CEO, Maxima Corporation
- Daryl Bell: Actor
- Tony Brown: Journalist/Producer
- Countee Cullen: Poet
- Duke Ellington: Jazz Musician
- Donny Hathaway: Musician
- Eugene Jackson: National Black Network
- Stuart Scott: ESPN Anchorman
- Chuck Stone: Philadelphia Daily News
- Keenan Ivory Wayans: Comedian, Producer
- Sidney Poitier: Academy Award Winning Actor
- Hill Harper: Actor
- Quinn Buckner: Former NBA Player and Coach
- Wes Chandler: Former NFL Player
- Todd Day: NBA Player
- Rosie Greer: Former NFL Player
- Charles Haley: NFL Player
- Michael Jackson: NFL Player
- Carnell Lake: NFL Player
- Jesse Owens: Olympic Gold Medalist
- Fritz Pollard: 1st Black Head Coach in the NFL
- Mike Powell: Track Star
- Eddie Robinson: Winningest Football Coach in NCAA History
- Jackie Robinson: First Black Man in Major League Baseball
- Art Shell: Former NFL Player and Coach
- Wes Unseld: Former NBA Player and Coach
- Gene Upshaw: President of the NFL Players Association
- Lenny Wilkens: Winningest Coach in NBA History
- John “Hot Rod” Williams: Former NBA Player
- Reggie Williams: Cincinnati Bengal
Born a slave, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in Talbot County, Maryland, Frederick Douglass has been called the father of the civil rights movement. He rose through determination, brilliance, and eloquence to shape the American nation. He was an abolitionist, human rights and women’s rights activist, orator, author, journalist, publisher, and social reformer. Committed to freedom, Douglass dedicated his life to achieving justice for all Americans, in particular African-Americans, women, and minority groups. He envisioned America as an inclusive nation strengthened by diversity and free of discrimination. Frederick Douglas died on February 20, 1895 at Cedar Hill after attending a women’s rights meeting. He became an honorary member of Omega Chapter in 1921, enjoying the distinction of being the only member initiated posthumously. It is also noted that Douglas died before the founding of the Fraternity.
Born in 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington created thousands of musical works, led his famous orchestra for an unmatched stretch of fifty years, and earned his nickname, Duke, by setting the standard for sophistication and elegance. Always a modernist, he made countless contributions to the jazz art form, and his music continues to be rediscovered and re-interpreted by every new generation of artists. Today, more than 20 years after Brother Ellington’s death in 1974, musicians and scholars are still uncovering new riches in the trove of materials that he left behind. Brother Duke Ellington was, to use a phrase he coined, BEYOND CATEGORY.
John H. Johnson
Johnson Publishing’s business is black and white and read all over. In 1942, Johnson used his mother’s furniture as collateral to secure a $500 loan to start the publication Negro Digest, the forerunner to Ebony magazine. He parlayed his dream of publishing “a magazine of Negro content” into a “black gold mine.” Today, Johnson is chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. in Chicago, the largest black owned publishing and cosmetics company in the world. In November 1995 the company expanded its operations with the launch of Ebony South Africa. Also part of the company are Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Supreme Beauty Products, Ebony Fashion Fair and Johnson Publishing Company Book Division.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the world’s best known advocates of non-violent social change strategies Martin Luther King, Jr., drew his ideas from many different cultural traditions. Born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, King’s roots were in the African-American Baptist church. On December 5, 1955, five days after Montgomery civil rights activist Rosa Parks (Alpha Kappa Alpha) refused to obey the city’s rules mandating segregation on buses, black residents launched a bus boycott and elected King as president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association. King gained national prominence as a result of his exceptional oratorical skills and personal courage. King’s renown grew as he became Time magazine’s Man of the Year and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while seeking to assist a garbage workers’ strike in Memphis. To date, King is the only American (excluding U.S. Presidents) to be honored with a Federal holiday.
Brother Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), was the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served as an associate justice from 1967 until his retirement in 1991. As a justice, Brother Marshall took liberal positions on a wide variety of issues, including capital punishment, free speech, school desegregation, and affirmative action. From 1940 to 1961, he was director and chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Marshall is perhaps best known for arguing, before the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
James Cleveland Owens was born in Danville, Alabama in 1913. After his family moved to Ohio, he became known as “Jesse”, derived from his initials “J.C.”. Brother Owens competed as a runner while at Ohio State University, setting two world records. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Adolf Hitler put on a massive propaganda campaign claiming that Aryan supremacy would win the games for the Nordic countries. Brother Owens, a Black man, won gold medals in four events, beating several world records and embarrassing the Nazis. Brother Owens died in 1980.
In the annals of Alpha’s history, no one man has exemplified the spirit of an Alphaman more than Brother Paul Robeson. Born in 1898, he was a world famous scholar, athlete, actor, singer and civil rights activist. Entering Rutgers University on an academic scholarship, Brother Robeson excelled in athletics and earned a combined 12 letters in track, football, baseball and basketball. During his senior year, he earned All-American honors in football and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors as well as the distinction of being named a Rhodes Scholar. In 1923, he received his law degree from Columbia University, where he was discovered acting in a school play. Brother Robeson went on to star in numerous productions including Porgy and Bess and Othello, where his outstanding voice was well received. Traveling the world, Robeson spoke several languages including Chinese, Russian, Gaelic and Spanish. In 1945, he was awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his outstanding achievements in the theater and on the concert stage. Brother Paul Robeson, arguably the most versatile black man of all-time, died in Philadelphia on January 23, 1976.
There is little doubt among the informed that, by definition, Brother Eddie G. Robinson is a legend. His pursuit of coaching excellence is intense, devoted, and resolute. Brother Robinson’s success in this lifelong endeavor is recorded in his more than a half century of college coaching (54 years at the college level) and his win record of more than 400 games. Affectionately known as “Coach Rob”, he retired from his position as Head Coach of Grambling University in 1997, the winningest coach in football history.
Whitney M. Young, Jr.
An educator, humanitarian, author and civil rights leader, Young dedicated his life to full participation of African-Americans in the nation’s economic and political systems. For more than two decades, he led the National Urban League in its effort to improve the economic status of African-Americans. Young accomplished this by working within the economic and political systems to achieve equal opportunities. In 1953, Young took a brief hiatus from the Urban League to become the Dean of Atlanta University’s Graduate School of Social Work. He served in that position until he was appointed National Urban League Executive Director in 1961. On March 11, 1971, Whitney Young died while attending the African-American Dialogue (a conference held to strengthen the relationship between peoples of African descent throughout the Diaspora) in Lagos, Nigeria.