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Kappa Alpha Psi

Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kappa Alpha Psi to make a historic 'pilgrimage' to IU Bloomington to mark its centennial

July 5, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As part of their national meeting and centennial celebration in Indianapolis, thousands of delegates of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. will make a "pilgrimage" later this week to Indiana University Bloomington, where the organization was founded 100 years ago.

Kappa Alpha Psi Houseparty

Photo from "The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi"

Early Kappa Alpha Psi members and friends gather for a social at IU Bloomington in this undated photo.

Kappa Alpha Psi was the second historically black fraternity incorporated as a national organization. Elder Watson Diggs and nine other African American students at IU embraced a mutual vision to form a fraternity that today has 730 chapters and 120,000 members worldwide.

The fraternity will hold its 80th Grand Chapter Meeting and Centennial Celebration on July 2-10. More than 20,000 are expected to gather for the Centennial Celebration.

While most events will take place in Indianapolis, Thursday (July 7) about 3,500 members of Kappa Alpha Psi are expected to visit IU Bloomington and places where the founders lived and learned.

"We are very pleased to help Kappa Alpha Psi celebrate this great milestone in its history and in the life of Indiana University," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "Kappa Alpha Psi is the first national fraternity to be founded at IU, and is a great point of pride for this university.

"The fraternity has grown into one of the leading African American fraternities in the nation and its founding here was one of many remarkable events that have helped transform Bloomington into one of the jewels of the Midwest," McRobbie said.

"The pilgrimage of Kappas to Bloomington and the Alpha Chapter represents a journey of exploration into the roots of their fraternal heritage and the legacy of 100 years of achievement in every field of human endeavor," added Edwin C. Marshall, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and a former vice polemarch of the Alpha Chapter at IU. "Just as the history of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity started with Indiana University, the history of Indiana University cannot be told without reference to the contributions of Kappa Alpha Psi."

Watson Diggs

Photo from "The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi"

Elder Watson Diggs

The "Centennial Pilgrimage" to Bloomington will feature a ceremony at Dunn Meadow, which will begin at noon. It will feature remarks by Dwayne M. Murray, grand polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi; Mark Kruzan, mayor of Bloomington; Marshall and other fraternity dignitaries.

Participants also will have an opportunity to visit various locations in Bloomington and on campus -- which make up "The Kappa Trail" -- that have special significance to the fraternity.

Among them will be: Bethel AME Church, 302 N. Rogers St., where founders of the organization often gathered; its first chapter house; the location of the fraternity's first meeting and People's Park, where a bench dedicated to the fraternity's founding will be unveiled. Plaques also will be unveiled on Kirkwood Avenue and on a bridge crossing the Jordan Creek in Dunn Meadow -- better known as "The Jordan River."

This past January, the fraternity also had a program at IU Bloomington to mark the centennial of its founding, which took place on Jan. 5, 1911.

Diggs joined nine other IU students from Indiana and Kentucky to develop the fraternity's constitution and bylaws, which have never contained any clause that either excluded or suggested the exclusion of a man from membership because of color, creed or national origin.

George Taliaferro

George Taliaferro, the first African American drafted by a National Football League team, is an alumnus of the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at IU.

Print-Quality Photo

Originally chartered and incorporated with the state of Indiana as Kappa Alpha Nu on May 15, 1911, the name was changed to Kappa Alpha Psi in 1914 and became effective in April of the following year.

Alumni of the IU Kappa Alpha Psi chapter include Tavis Smiley, the prominent television and radio commentator; Dennis Hayes, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; William Mays, founder and president of Mays Chemical Co. and owner of the Indianapolis Recorder; George Taliaferro, IU football All-American and College Football Hall of Fame inductee; and acclaimed musician Booker T. Jones.

Three years ago, a historical marker, the Elder Watson Diggs Memorial, was placed at the intersection of 17th Street and Jordan Avenue, at the site of the first house built for the fraternity. IU's Alpha chapter remains very active on campus, but does not have a house.

More information about IU's Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi is available online at For more information on the fraternity and centennial celebrations, visit their website at