Black Greek Student Life at the University of Idaho
by Brody Gasper
Alpha Phi Alpha
The Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at the University of Idaho was established in 1975 with an active presence at the University. The earliest mention of the chapter in print comes from a news story in the Argonaut in 1984, which gave a brief history of the organization and further insight into what the chapter worked to accomplish. The article mentions several members of the fraternity group, namely Curtis Johnson, the dean of pledges at the time, and Joe Taylor. Both of these students were former presidents of the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at University of Idaho. The chapter seemed to have a voice on campus, organizing several fundraisers and shows to attract interest in the fraternity. These included a Mother’s Day event and step shows that would raise money for cancer prevention and for funding scholarships to Black colleges across the United States.1
The history of the University of Idaho Alpha Phi Alpha chapter can continue to be traced through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with their involvement in Black History Month events in 19982 and the Shades of Black program they helped to set up in 2010.3 However, the fraternity seemed to all but disappear after this with no real mention of it, apart from Hassel Morrison, who was the Dean of Students in 2015 and had been an Alpha Phi Alpha member (not at the University of Idaho).4 Apart from this information though, it would seem as if the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at the University of Idaho has all but closed its doors and most likely combined with the Iota Tau chapter at Washington State University.
Also included in an Argonaut article from February 1984 is the mention of the “Alpha Angels” or the Black sorority counterpart to the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter.5 The “Alpha Angels” were noted for their support with events that the University of Idaho Alpha Phi Alpha chapter hosted, though apart from that there seems to be very little recorded history of their activities on campus. This is most likely because the Black sorority was small and did not have as much influence as the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity had.
Alpha Alpha Zeta
The Alpha Alpha Zeta chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity was the other active Black fraternity on the campus of the University of Idaho. However, it seems to have been much less active than the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter. On September 29, 1992, the Alpha Alpha Zeta chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity was established at the University of Idaho, noted in the Gem of the Mountains 1992 Vol. 90 yearbook. The yearbook entry mentions that the fraternity was officially recognized by UI’s Intrafraternity Council and was cemented within the Intrafraternity Council.6 The initial idea for the chapter came from a former UI student, Leland Allen, who in 1988 was initiated into the Washington State University’s chapter. After this yearbook entry, there are only scattered records of the chapter, with a page in the 1994 yearbook highlighting some of the members7 and an informational piece about the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity in the 2001 yearbook, with no mention of the Alpha Alpha Zeta chapter.8 There does not seem to be any other mention of the chapter since this last mention and it would seem that, similar to the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter, this fraternity chapter has closed its doors.
“African American Student Center: Fraternities,” Washington State University, https://www.aastudentcenter.wsu.edu/organizations/fraternities/.
Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha, A Development in College Life (14th ed.), (Chicago, IL: Foundation, 1981).
“Gamma Phi Beta House,” University of Idaho Library, 2019, https://www.lib.uidaho.edu/digital/campushistory/items/pg251.html.
Kappa Sigma House,” University of Idaho Library, 2019, https://www.lib.uidaho.edu/digital/campushistory/items/pg275.html.