Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century
Our Fight Has Just Begun
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
During the twentieth century, black Greek-Letter organizations (BGLOs) united college students dedicated to excellence, fostered kinship, and uplifted African Americans. Members of these organizations include remarkable and influential individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, novelist Toni Morrison, and Wall Street pioneer Reginald F. Lewis. Despite the profound influence of these groups, many now question the continuing relevance of BGLOs, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of their perceived link to hip-hop culture, black fraternities and sororities have been unfairly reduced to a media stereotype -- a world of hazing without any real substance. The general public knows very little about BGLOs, and surprisingly the members themselves often do not have a thorough understanding of their history and culture or of the issues currently facing their organizations. To foster a greater engagement with the history and contributions of BGLOs, Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun brings together an impressive group of authors to explore the contributions and continuing possibilities of BGLOs and their members. Editor Gregory S. Parks and the contributing authors provide historical context for the development of BGLOs, exploring their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs' responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within BGLOs, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs. As illustrated by the organized response of BGLO members to the racial injustice they observed in Jena, Louisiana, these organizations still have a vital mission. Both internally and externally, BGLOs struggle to forge a relevant identity for the new century. Internally, these groups wrestle with many issues, including hazing, homophobia, petty intergroup competition, and the difficulty of bridging the divide between college and alumni members. Externally, BGLOs face the challenge of rededicating themselves to their communities and leading an aggressive campaign against modern forms of racism, sexism, and other types of fear-driven behavior. By embracing the history of these organizations and exploring their continuing viability and relevance, Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century demonstrates that BGLOs can create a positive and enduring future and that their most important work lies ahead.
"A must read for anyone interested in the future of BGLOs, generally, or their own!" -- Sylvia Cyrus-Albritton, Executive Director, Association for the Study of African American Life and History
"A masterpiece of multidisciplinary scholarship that clearly demonstrates the contemporary relevance of black fraternities and sororities by critically examining their remarkable history and thoroughly analyzing their present-day problems." -- Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Ohio State University
"Comprehensive and thorough in its scholarship, Black Greek Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century tackles many challenging issues, such as feminism, sexual orientation, racial integration, eating disorders, and organizational behavior. It will spark much discussion and future research on the organizations. It is a must read for members of BGLOs, prospective members, the general public, and especially for student service personnel." -- Robert L. Harris, Jr., coeditor of The Columbia Guide to African American History since 1939
"As recently as fifteen years ago, the body of critical scholarship on Black Greek Letter Organizations was negligible. And yet at various points in history, these organizations have played seminal roles in the African American freedom struggle. Now, with the appearance of Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century, Gregory S. Parks and other contributors have stepped into this breach with an ambitious collection of essays." -- Kenneth R. Janken, author of Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual
"An insightful collection of scholarship that examines the role of BGLOs in the twenty-first century. While the story of BGLOs begins with a response to American racism and a mission of activism, this book reminds us that there is much more to know about this rich tradition. Moving beyond familiar discussions around hazing and stepping, the contributors to this volume treat BGLOs as a complex sociological project. From Black womanism to homosexuality, eating disorders to Black Greeks as 'educated gangs,' this scholarship works to carefully deconstruct one of this nation's most compelling cultural entities." -- Robin Coleman, editor of Say It Loud! African American Audiences, Media, and Identity
"In the history of American fraternal orders and college fraternities, African American contributions have long been overlooked. Dr. Parks has successfully organized a distinguished group of scholars and writers who have created a book that fills this oversight. Black Greek Letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century makes a significant contribution by providing a one-volume overview of the entire history of BGLOs in the 21st century. The interpretation and information of this book should be required reading for all interested in American fraternity." -- Mark A. Tabbert, author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities
"Gregory Parks' latest contribution to the documentation and analysis of historically black fraternities and sororities should be celebrated and widely read. The impact of these groups on African American and mainstream American life in the 20th century must be understood. And Black Greek Letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century will offer considerable insight into their unique histories, challenges and modern-day issues." -- C. Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Director, Step Afrika!
"This work is incisive as to the actions Black Greek-letter Organization's research can examine; scholarship is a critical need in our community and has a chance to be achieved with some guidance and inspiration from our groups. We commend the writers for their in depth comments and thoughts and for a retelling of the history of these important groups." -- Cornell Leverette Moore, Grand Sire Archon Sigma Pi Phi
"Makes a desperately needed contribution to the current literature on BGLOs. In assembling an impressive range of scholars, research methodologies, and disciplinary frameworks, Gregory Parks has given this under-researched topic the level of critical attention that it deserves. In particular, the contributors reject purely romantic or cynical postures in favor of theoretically sophisticated and personally informed investigations into the contours, complexities, and contradictions of BGLOs. This volume will stand as a central text for anyone interested in the rich legacy and vibrant future of Black sororities and fraternities." -- Marc Lamont Hill, author of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop, Pedagogy, and Youth Identities
"As a fraternity man, I thought there was little left for me to learn about the Greek experience. This book proved me terribly wrong. It's a must-read, must-have, and the most comprehensive examination of Black Greek culture in print today." -- Derek Fordjour, Artist/Producer
"This book is an essential piece of scholarship for anyone who wants to better understand the history, challenges and triumphs of middle and upper-class African Americans in the early 1900s and beyond. Frank in its delivery and candid to a fault, no topic is too sensitive for exploration. This book will leave you with a renewed appreciation of African American culture." -- Cheli English-Figaro, Esq., Cofounder and President Emerita, Mocha Moms, Inc.
" Black Greek Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century is a remarkably well-crafted and thoroughly researched, collective history of BGLOs and their impact on the African American culture and community." -- African American Literary Review & News
"This book offers research, theoretical perspectives, and practical models that can be used to examine BGLOs, influence future scholarship and practice, and bring greater awareness and knowledge to student affairs and BGLO leaders." -- Lori D. Patton and Natasha Croom, Journal of College Student Development