Phi Beta Sigma has historic past

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When was the first social fraternity that initiated black members established at K-State?

The Delta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity was founded at Kansas State Agricultural College on April 9, 1917. The national organization was formed at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1914. One of the original founding fathers, Charles Ignatius Brown, personally visited Manhattan to colonize K-State’s Delta chapter.

The founding was a historic event, as it was the first chapter of the historically black fraternity founded west of the Mississippi River on an integrated campus.

The members of Phi Beta Sigma resided at 1020 Colorado St. from 1921 to 1930. Many of the men who pledged the fraternity while living at the house led distinguished careers in their field. Louis Edwin Fry was the first black student at K-State elected to The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architectural engineering from K-State and designed numerous structures in his career, including Moton Hall, the engineering building at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Sheridan Shetler graduated in 1926 with a degree in animal husbandry and later returned to complete his master’s degree in 1934. Shetler is known for working with renowned scientist George Washington Carver in the 1920s and 1930s on various agricultural projects.

Frank Marshall Davis was a journalism student who received numerous national awards for his writing and was known on campus for his columns in the Collegian under the title “A Diplomat in Black.” Davis wrote critically acclaimed poetry and published three books in his lifetime.

The original home of the fraternity changed tenants numerous times after 1930. The ground floor of the original home still stands today. Pat Patton, assistant at University Archives in Hale Library, said the local fraternity recently reacquired the home. A rededication ceremony is planned for April 26.

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