Black History Month: Alpha Kappa Alpha


Ethel Hedgeman Lyle was born in St Louis in 1885. Her father, Albert Hedgeman, was a janitor; her mother, Marie Hubbard, was a homemaker. She graduated from Sumner High School in 1904 and attended Howard University.

In her second year, illness forced her to withdraw. Ethel later returned to school at Howard. In her senior year, she led a group of eight other women to found Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She probably had no idea what she had wrought.

AKA was the first Greek-letter organization for black women. Marking its Centennial this year, AKA has been one of the elite organizations in America. Today, it is an international organization with a diverse membership. AKA’s focus has always been “service.” In its early years, AKA made toys for, and worked with, children confined at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and helped rural refugees adapt to the urban environment. Later, AKA worked with the Mississippi Health Project to address appalling health conditions facing rural blacks in the South. As part of this project, AKA invented and staffed the world’s first mobile health clinic. and acted to demand an end to lynching. The sorority contributed to Howard University’s child development programs and sought to help advance research into sickle cell anemia. In the 1960s and 1970s, AKA ran the Cleveland Job Corps Center for Women under a multimillion dollar government contract. They purchased Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth home in order to preserve it.

AKA commenced its Reading Experience program that later became the basis for its Educational Advancement Foundation. The Foundation’s program includes Academic Scholarships, Fellowships and Community Assistance Awards.

In the 1980s and 1990s, AKA went global with its International Foundation for Education and Slef-Help. The Sorors also initiated programs such as the PArtneship in Mathmatics and Science and them Young Authors Program, which is an effort to increase reading and wriitng skills.

Today, AKA is creating economic expertise, success in business and power networking opportunities for the non-traditional entrepreneur to build a strong foundation for women in business. At the same time, the sorority’s mission also focuses on education, synergy and partnerships, as the economic keys to success in improving living standards within the Black community.

AKA also concentrates on building educational advantage through technology and has leadership programs geared to competition in the global economy.

All that from Ethel Hedgeman Lyle’s idea for service to the community!

AKA will hold its 100th Anniversary celebration (the Centennial Boule) in July in WAshington D.C.

Many of America’s successful black women have been AKA sorors, including Lillian Gines Manson (my mother) Delorise Annrie Gines, and Bernadine Coles Gines (my aunts). Bernadine’s sister, Frances, is also an AKA soror. AKA’s Midwestern Region has named its award for the top undergraduate chapter president the “Delorise Gines Award.”

Other AKA sorors include: Marian Anderson, the first African-American woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera; Dr. Maya Angelou, award-winning novelist and poet; Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University; Bebe (Elizabeth) Moore Campbell, acclaimed author;
Suzette Charles, second African-American and first Italian-American Miss America (1984); Olivia Cole, award-winning actress (Roots); Alice Coachman Davis, first African-American woman to win a gold medal and first American female to win a gold medal in track and field;
Sarah “Sadie” Delaney, educator, businesswoman, and co-author of book, Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years; Vonetta Flowers,first African-American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics for bobsledding; Zina Garrison -Jackson, Olympic gold medalist in tennis (1988); Althea Gibson, pioneer in amateur tennis and professional golf; Carmen de Lavallade Holder, renowned ballet dancer and theater actress; Catherine Hughes, CEO/owner of Radio One; Mae Jemison, M.D., first African-American woman astronaut; Gladys Knight Parker, singer and actress; Toni Morrison, Nobel prize winner, novelist and poet; Jada Pinkett-Smith, actress; Georgiana Simpson, First African-American female to get a PhD.;Dr. C. Delores Tucker, National Chairman of the National Political Congress of Black Women.

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Craig

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