In 1929, Brother Dr. Charles Harris Wesley
published his path-breaking history of African
American, collegiate-based fraternal life—The
History of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Development in Negro
College Life. In those pages, and in subsequent
editions of the Fraternity’s history, Brother Wesley
tells a story, in large part, about the many men—
and some women—who helped make Alpha Phi
Alpha great. Countless of these individuals are
nothing more than names associated with offices or
committees or events or places. The reader is left to
wonder: who are these individuals; what are their,
respective, stories? It is my hope that this book
answers those questions for some of those
individuals—that it provides some context to who
the individuals are who sacrificed and served to
move Alpha Phi Alpha toward what the Jewels
envisioned the Fraternity to be.
To date, a handful of biographies have been
written about Alpha “greats” and even some of the
brothers whose biographies are explored within
these pages. Brother Wesley wrote a biography
about Jewel Dr. Henry Arthur Callis, and Brother
Dr. Felix Armfield wrote one about Jewel Eugene
Kinckle Jones. Dr. Kenneth Janken wrote one
about General President Dr. Rayford Logan. I
penned a law review article about Brother Belford
V. Lawson’s life, and Brother Dr. Roger Youmans
penned two autobiographies. To date, however, the
most extensive, well-researched, and scholarly look
at Alpha Phi Alpha leadership has been Brother Dr.
Stefan Bradley’s work on the Jewels and Brother
Dr. Andre McKenzie’s work on the General
Presidents. This book is in no way an effort to
duplicate their monumental works. It is, rather, an
effort to highlight some of the points they made,
while also providing more personal information
about those leaders and tackle the histories of a
range of new individuals.
I realize, with great regret, that a book such
as this—at least to some brothers—is a highly
political act. It is political in the sense that some
brothers may believe that there is a finite list of
individuals who can or should be writing about
Alpha luminaries. It is political in the sense that
some, maybe even many or most, brothers revere
Alpha’s history so much that he who wields or
seeks to wield it may be perceived as injecting
himself into the Alpha political sphere, i.e., seeking
political office within Alpha. Let me make a point
about these issues, in turn.
The way I approach this project is the way I
hope all Alpha Phi Alpha brothers will, from that
part of our creed that extols the virtue of
“scholarship.” Scholarship isn’t a monopoly. No
single man or woman has or will corner the market
on information. In the academic sense, scholars
appreciate and understand that the production of
knowledge is an iterative, step-by-step approach.
Others before me have, and others after me will,
write about Alpha Phi Alpha and its members. Each
project will, or at least I hope will, shed greater light
on these stories and histories. It is an approach that
I hope brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha will embrace, as
it reflects one of our highest ideals.
As to this project being political leverage
within the House of Alpha, as I’ve said many times
before, it is foolish to elect an Alpha brother to
office simply because he is knowledgeable about the
Fraternity’s history. Leadership, especially visionary
leadership, isn’t about knowledge of intricate details
about the Jewels, or other brothers’, lives or reciting
the poems “If” and “Invictus.” It is about having a
vision for where the Fraternity needs to go and the
ability to execute on that vision—all the while
maintaining the high standards of Alpha.
I’ve done my best to be methodical in my
writing of this book. I’ve tried to identify a wide
range of sources—e.g., books, scholarly articles,
court cases, archival records, newspapers and
magazines. In some instances, I’ve interviewed
family members or even brothers whose stories are
told within this book. I had research assistants go
back and double check citations to make sure they
say what I contend they say and to make sure I’ve
not inadvertently plucked text from a source and
not given credit to the author where credit is due.
I’ve largely cited all of the sources I’ve used for each
biography so that others who wish to expound on
the lives of the individuals within these pages have a
starting point for their research. With all that said, I
am sure errors have been made, and those errors are
mine. At the end of the book, I include an
Appendix with a listing of the articles for the first
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