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University of Missouri

50 Years of Brotherhood

The first historically black fraternity celebrates half a century on MU’s campus.

fraternity celebration

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Alumni from Mizzou’s Zeta Alpha chapter welcome guests to an event at The Blue Note: Te’Ron Simmons (left), Warren Davis, Chris Blackwell (white jacket), Je’Von Adams Walker and Maques Williams (right). Photo by Morgan Lieberman.

It was a cool Tuesday night on May 17, 1966, when seven men known as “The Pearls” founded the Zeta Alpha chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. on the University of Missouri campus. That moment marked the first of several major steps The Pearls would take toward ensuring African-American students’ voices are heard. Founding members of Zeta Alpha went on to establish the Legion of Black Collegians, MU’s black student government, and MU’s NAACP chapter.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for black men, was founded Dec. 4, 1906, at Cornell University. In the past half-century, Mizzou’s chapter has initiated, or crossed, more than 200 members and hosted countless philanthropic events, including their most recent, a DJ battle, which raised resources for Flint, Michigan, residents affected by the water crisis. To celebrate its landmark anniversary, the chapter held a 50-year reception wherein alumni of the chapter returned for fellowship with current members.

Senior vice president Brandon Jackson says what he loves most about being an Alpha is the welcoming environment the fraternity provides, offering “safe spaces for kids on campus, no matter what walks of life they come from,” he says.

To preserve the sense of brotherhood, the chapter has launched its Zeta Alpha Alumni Network. The goal is for members to bridge the gap between men who became members decades ago and those who have recently joined.

As for the next 50 years, Jackson has nothing but high expectations for Zeta Alpha.

I hope we continue being exceptional men, continue leading and focusing on being a positive impact in people’s lives,” he says. “I don’t want ZA to lose sight of community service and how important that is — or respecting women. That’s all I can hope for: that it continues being great.”