Welcome to Class

Many students choose fraternities or sororities based on family legacy or on the perception of the organization’s reputation. After becoming members, or prospective members, they may learn more about the organization, but only a few know the historical significance of black Greek organizations as a whole. Perhaps this is due to the exclusivity that has gradually become a part of the intake processes. Maybe some students have no interest in the history, but only in the present activities and inherited stereotypes that have followed these organizations for generations.

Whatever the case, Walter M. Kimbrough attempts to reveal the deep-rooted history of black fraternalism in his newest release, “Black Greek 101.” Regarded as the first book to provide a complete analysis of the origination and culture of black Greek organizations, Kimbrough’s composition is evident of his ten years of research.

Offering information on their history, pledging, culture and future, Kimbrough aims to enlighten readers about the numerous black fraternal organizations.

A member of the Zeta Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Kimbrough is vice president for student affairs at Albany State University, and is known as an “expert on national historically black fraternities and sororities.” While his allegiance to Alpha Phi Alpha resounds throughout the book, Kimbrough gives all organizations substantial attention, offering valuable information about each.

He begins the book with a story of how and why he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and why he began researching black fraternalism. The personal accounts help readers understand Kimbrough’s credibility and realize that in most instances he is speaking from experience.

Kimbrough reveals to readers that while Alpha Phi Alpha is often considered the first black Greek organization, a number of organizations existed before its founding. He touches a little on the significance of the Masons as perhaps the first black “fraternity,” but quickly returns focus to organizations founded on college campuses.

Chapter five, titled “That Thing You Do” is one of the most interesting sections of the book. It explains the significance of line names, plots, steps and other cultural traditions of fraternities and sororities.

The composition would not be complete without some mention of the most touchy subject involving black fraternalism, hazing. Kimbrough brings attention to the issue by including testimonials from former pledges.

“Nighttime, daytime, anytime. Mainly at night, mainly on weekends. Three whacks ain’t that bad after about 10 of them. After you get your first 10 in life you can take three good ones. .It gets to a point where you can’t sleep on your back anymore because your butt gets surprisingly hard. It gets swollen and black.”

Although anonymous and sometimes disturbing, these accounts add a personal flavor to Kimbrough’s work.

“Black Greek 101” offers readers a peek into the often off-limits world of black Greek life. It has an immense amount of information valuable to Greeks and non-Greeks alike. As Kimbrough writes, the history of black fraternalism has not only influenced campus culture, but also American life.