The Ivy Influence: Lucy Diggs Slowe
DID YOU KNOW? The Ivy Influence played a role in the founding of two other Pan-Hellic organizations besides the founding of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity on Cornell's campus.
While in many ways directly influencing athletics, the Ivy Influence also had its affects on other campuses and in parts of society beyond the walls of the Ancient Eight institutions.
No story is more telling of this fact than that of Lucy Diggs Slowe, an advocate for equal rights for African-American women in the early part of the 20th century.
Slowe made an impact as an educator, creating the first junior high school in the Washington, D.C., school system and serving as its first principal in 1919 before becoming Howard University's first Dean of Women in 1922. She made a tremendous impact as an athlete, becoming a 17-time tennis champion and the first African-American woman to win a major sports title in 1917 when she won the American Tennis Association's first national tournament in Baltimore.
Just two years prior, Slowe graduated from Columbia with a Master's of Arts degree. Following graduation, she continued to take student personnel classes at Columbia's Teachers College and even convinced the school to offer an extension course in education attended by black and white teachers and staff at the junior high school she started.
Slowe also made a lasting impact as a student at Howard. In 1908, she was among a group of nine African-American women who were scholastic leaders of their classes and felt an organization for college-trained women of color, just one generation removed from slavery, was needed. With direction from Ethel Robinson, an English professor at Howard who was a 1905 graduate of the Women's College at Brown, the group created Alpha Kappa Alpha as the first greek-letter sorority established and incorporated by African-American women. Today, Alpha Kappa Alpha boasts 403 undergraduate and 556 graduate chapters that serves a membership of more than 250,000 college-educated women of diverse backgrounds from all over the world.
Noticing what Slowe had been a part of at Howard was her cousin, Elder Watson Diggs. Diggs was from Madisonville, Ky., and enrolled at Howard in the fall of 1909. At Howard, Diggs befriended Bryon K. Armstrong. During that school year, the two took a trip to visit Armstrong's cousin, Irven Armstrong, at Indiana University in Bloomington. Bryon enjoyed the campus so much that he decided to transfer to Indiana for the next school year and convinced Diggs to do the same.
Influenced by their time at Howard where Slowe established Alpha Kappa Alpha and where the second (Beta) chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha formed in 1907, Diggs and and Bryon K. Armstrong joined with eight other African-American male students at Indiana to form Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Established on Jan. 5, 1911, Kappa Alpha Psi is now a greek-letter brotherhood of more than 150,000 members with more than 700 graduate and undergraduate chapters built on its foundation of "Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor."
Slowe, through her work and her affect on others, certainly achieved in every endeavor she encountered in her 52 years. Her story is set to be told once again in the book "Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Slowe" written by Carroll L. L. Miller, the former Dean of the Graduate School at Howard, and Anne S. Pruitt-Logan, a Professor Emerita of Educational Policy and Leadership at the Ohio State University. The book is set to be released in June.