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African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision.

African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision Edited by Tamara L. Brown, Gregory S. Parks and Clarenda M. Phillips University Press of Kentucky, March 2005 $39.95, ISBN 0-813-12344-5

The compilation of essays in this book demonstrates my contention that we African Americans must step forward and write our own history. African American Fraternities and Sororities enables the casual or academic reader to understand a sociological phenomenon that continues to meet the social, political and spiritual needs of newly enrolled black students at America's universities and colleges.

The essays explore the struggles, intentions, triumphs and setbacks of a determined group of nine black, Greek-Letter organizations (BGLOs) that emerged as African Americans began to attend colleges and universities in large numbers following Plessy v. Ferguson. It contains recollections of the personal development of trailblazing men and women, and places their activities in a racial and national context. It contains conscience-tugging stories of attempts of members of the black civil society to win recognition and respect from white society within academia. And it shows how the mood of BGLOs changed from accommodation to white institutions to challenging the status quo.

Gloria Harper Dickinson establishes the historical and social context of BGLOs in the first essay. Her chapter is followed by essays by distinguished scholars who have mined the presence of African Americans on campuses over the past hundred years. Of special interest to this reader, for whom membership in Kappa Alpha Psi was a source of meeting and making friends for life, was Andre McKenzie's chapter on the origins and evolution of "the Divine Nine," the nine black fraternities and sororities that "were to be the means of leading the Negro youth out of the slough of despond and raising him to a plane of intellectual and moral security."

The editors move the reader along a continuum from the founding of fraternities and sororities in 1906 to an examination of the issues that confront contemporary BGLOs. This volume offers a variety of interpretations of the contributions and conundrums that constitute an important historical strand in the fabric of African American history. Descriptions of courageous and steadfast men and women who labored long and hard to develop a spirit of cooperation among collegiates and a commitment to building "a better society for all" emblazon each chapter. These are stories of success in spite of American institutions and prejudices. This book is a resource that every college library and every chapter of every BGLO should own and circulate among its members to keep our history alive.

Charles E. Wilson is an independent scholar and essayist and was on the original staff of The Liberator.
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Author:Wilson, Charles E.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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