Nearly 4,000 members travel to Bloomington to return to ‘mecca’ of first black fraternity

In 1911, surrounded by racism and segregation, 10 men founded the first historically black fraternity at IU — one of the first of its kind in the country.

One hundred years later, thousands of men and their families came to Indiana to celebrate the fraternity’s centennial from July 2 through July 10.

As part of the celebration, members of Kappa Alpha Psi met in Indianapolis for the fraternity’s 80th Grand Chapter Meeting last week, and nearly 4,000 of the members arrived by 60 buses in Bloomington June 7 to see where it all began.

“This was a matter of trying to reconnect with the founders,” said Evelyn C. Robertson Jr., a Kappa who graduated from Tennessee State in 1962. “The path they traveled was very different than the direction of the fraternity today. This was about connecting to the past, appreciating the adversity and sacrifice.”

Elder Watson Diggs and nine other black IU students founded Kappa Alpha Psi on Jan. 5, 1911, and created a constitution as well as bylaws that have never excluded a man from membership because of color, creed or national origin.

It became the second historically black fraternity incorporated as a national organization and the first national fraternity to be founded at IU.

Polemarch of Alpha Chapter at IU, senior Aaron Barnes, said the pilgrimage helped put the historical and national significance of the fraternity into perspective.

“This is a great moment of reverence for myself and my brothers,” Barnes said. “We are a reflection of our founders. It’s something we take for granted living here in Bloomington with Alpha Chapter.”

Read the rest of this story at the Indiana Daily Student.