Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The Founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor, Honorable Leonard F. Morse, and Honorable Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service.
The Founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as “a part of” the general community rather than “apart from” the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits, rather than his family background or affluence…without regard to race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. They desired for their fraternity to exist as part of an even greater brotherhood which would be devoted to the “inclusive we” rather than the “exclusive we”.
From its inception, the Founders also conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Rather than gaining skills to be utilized exclusively for themselves and their immediate families, they held a deep conviction that they should return their newly acquired skills to the communities from which they had come. This deep conviction was mirrored in the Fraternity’s motto, “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity”.
Today, Phi Beta Sigma has blossomed into an international organization of leaders. No longer a single entity, members of the Fraternity have been instrumental in the establishment of the Phi Beta Sigma National Foundation, the Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union and The Sigma Beta Club Foundation. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, founded in 1920 with the assistance of Phi Beta Sigma, is the sister organization of the Fraternity.
FOUNDER A. LANGSTON TAYLOR
A. Langston Taylor, the founder of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from the Howe Institute in 1909 which is now Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. He received his college and professional training at Howard and Frelinghuysen University in Washington, D.C.
Founder Taylor chose business for his life’s career and from 1917 to 1926 he conducted a real estate and insurance business. He was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Potomac Investment Company, Director of the Federal Life Insurance Company and President of the Taylor Tobacco Company.
FOUNDER LEONARD F. MORSE
Leonard F. Morse was the proud son of a distinguished New England family, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Morse of Boston, Massachusetts. Trained in the elementary and secondary schools of New Bedford, Massachusetts, he became the valedictorian of his integrated high school and entered Howard University.
In 1915, he graduated from Howard University and was the first person to graduate in 3 years with an A.B and a B.Ed degree. Later, the degree of Bachelor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the Payne School of Divinity, Wilberforce University. He received his Master’s degree from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and the degrees of Doctor of Metaphysics and the Doctor of Psychology from the College of Metaphysics, Indianapolis, Indiana.
FOUNDER CHARLES I. BROWN
According to the 1914 Howard University yearbook, Founder Charles I. Brown is documented as Finished Howard Academy, 1910; Class Chaplain, 1913; Chaplain Classical Club, 1912-1913; President Classical Club, 1914; Vice-President Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, 1914; will do postgraduate work in Latin. In addition, Founder Brown was chosen “The Most To Be Admired” for the Class of 1914.
Founder Brown is said to have been born in Topeka, Kansas in 1890. Census records show that his father was Rev. John M. Brown and that his mother was Maggie M. Brown. However, records at Howard University from 1910 have Founder Brown living at 1813 Titan Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.