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International History of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®

Founded on January 15,  1908 at Howard University 

Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African American college-trained women, was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 15, 1908. Since its inception, Alpha Kappa Alpha has been a channel through which select women improve socioeconomic conditions in their city, state, nation, and the world. The visionary women who organized the Sorority recognized their privileged position as college-trained women of color, one generation removed from slavery. They believed that by organizing their talents and strengths, they could use community service as a means of self-fulfillment and improve the social stature of African Americans.


The Sorority's founders and incorporators, known as the Twenty Pearls, were Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Joanna Berry Shields, Norma Boyd, Julia Brooks, Anna Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Marjorie Hill, Ethel Jones Mowbray, Sarah Meriweather Nutter, Alice Murray, Lavinia Norman, Nellie Pratt Russell, Nellie Quander, Lucy Slowe, Minnie Smith, Carrie Snowden, Harriet Terry, and Marie Woolfolk Taylor.


The Twenty Pearls and early leaders of the Sorority succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Alpha Kappa Alpha's principles of sisterhood, scholarship, and service. As the Sorority has grown, and as its function has become more complex, it has kept in balance two important themes: the importance of the individual and the strength of an organization of women of ability and courage. Today, Alpha Kappa Alpha's influence extends beyond campus quads and student interest. It has a legacy of service that deepens, rather than ends, with college graduation. Over a century after its founding, Alpha Kappa Alpha has blossomed into a sisterhood comprised of more than 225,000 women in 975 chapters worldwide who believe in "Service to All Mankind."

Ethel Hedgeman Lyle

Founders' Window

Our Purpose

Since its founding over a century ago, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission has been 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.”


Ethel Hedgeman Lyle

Anna Easter Brown

Beulah Burke

Lillie Burke

Margaret Flagg Holmes

Marjorie Hill

Lavinia Norman

Lucy Slowe

Marie Woolfolk Taylor


Joanna Berry Shields

Norma Boyd

Ethel Jones Mowbray

Sarah Meriweather Nutter

Alice Murray

Carrie Snowden

Harriet Terry


Norma Boyd

Julia Brooks

Ethel Jones Mowbray

Nellie Pratt Russell

Nellie Quander

Minnie Smith

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