Kappa Alpha, the fraternal organization that studies the history of Confederate presidents and reveres Robert E. Lee, is once again facing a revolt over its racist history and two young pledges’ implication in two deadly episodes.
After the boys’ involvement in a sex scandal this summer and the Civil War desegregation trials of two former members decades ago, the fraternal organization has become the subject of a public rebuke from its former president.
“Anyone who can define the founding ideals of a fraternity based on the absence of race can’t also define its link to the horrific enslavement and genocide of a nation’s human beings,” the former Kappa Alpha national president, Scott F. Dohrmann, wrote in a letter to the fraternity’s former membership and donors.
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The Fraternity That Rejoices In The Name Of A Praying Slavemaker
Another chapter of the four-century-old Kappa Alpha’s history is being resurrected with the group’s four new pledges about to sign their names and portraits into the fraternity’s walls.
It is no small gesture for the fraternity, made up of honor students at Xavier University. It also seems almost academic in nature, as members this week plan to hang the new members’ portraits and sign the $3.4 million that they raised to finance the building of a new fraternity house at the South Fulton campus.
But fraternity members point out that few fraternities are so closely connected to history — and racist past — as Kappa Alpha. Its headquarters is in Fulton, just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia; its national headquarters are in Savannah, Georgia. The fraternity’s history includes teaching students how to become slaves in an 1824 encampment. And there’s more.
For more than a century, Kappa Alpha members sat on its frat house committee, where members later became involved in slave rebellions, as members of other fraternities and sororities did. Also, two former national presidents of the fraternity, Mark A. Minkler and Oscar Merriweather, were prosecuted on charges of raping white women in South Carolina in the 1980s.
“It’s a well-known and well-documented fact in the black community that if you come from this fraternity … you are automatically susceptible to being mentored by the likes of Scott Dohrmann,” the current national president, Patrick B. Sowers, said.
And that isn’t all. For nearly a century and a half, Kappa Alpha members were also active in protests outside polling places in the Civil Rights era, reading papers and singing song hymns on the dark, early mornings, holding flags of segregation and lynching.
“It is not a secret that the pillars of this particular fraternity were the instigators, actively involved in, between 1860 and 1968, in creating the conditions that led to the Civil War,” said Alvern Pierce, a former Delta Sigma Theta national president who now directs a group working to end racism in higher education.
Of course, these events have a special resonance at the University of Georgia, where students could see the new fraternity house nearly a decade ago as part of a plan to shut down enrollment of out-of-state students in order to restore black enrollment to the 15 percent level at which it stood a century ago.
While black students tend to move in to many of the schools in the new fraternity’s hometowns, many whites have also been attracted to Xavier in recent years. And Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a predominantly white fraternal organization, also houses brothers and brothers-in-law across the country.
Spokesmen for both fraternities declined to comment for this story.
Then, there’s the controversy over the Harvard College pledge who grew up in a predominantly white town and, now in the college’s Greek system, met the girl of his dreams when he was “officially” inducted into the national fraternity.