Charles Henry Chapman, One Of The Seven Founders Of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity At Cornell University

| How Africa News
Charles Henry Chapman One of the Seven Founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Cornell University


Charles Henry Chapman was born in Cayuga County, New York, on June 20, 1876. He is one of the seven founders (Jewels) of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the United States’ first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity for men of African heritage. Chapman was living in Ontario, New York, with his grandfather George Thompson in 1880. He moved to Washington, D.C., around 1900, and studied at Howard University, but there is no record of him finishing his studies. Chapman enrolled as a student at Cornell University in 1905. He was an agricultural student who ran a small brickyard and cafe.

The Niagara Movement (1905-09), whose major goal was to combat racial segregation and disenfranchisement, inspired many Black students at Cornell to form organizations to advocate racial progress. One of these was an African American social studies club that convened at the home of its creator, C.C. Poindexter, a graduate student at the university. Chapman, like Poindexter, was older and worked in the agriculture department. Other students frequently sought advice from both. Some club members, including Chapman, decided to form a fraternal organization in 1906, which became Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Chapman’s business experience and management abilities were critical to the fraternity’s early development.

Chapman left Cornell to attend Howard University, then Ohio State University. There are no detailed records of his travels or personal history at this time, although it is known that he met and married Esther Chapman, a dietician in the public school system. The couple made their home in Cleveland, Ohio. For the rest of his life, he would travel from his teaching institutions in the South to Ohio to see Esther and her family, who lived in Cleveland.

Charles Chapman taught agriculture at both Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama. His most prestigious appointment came in 1924, when he was hired to chair the agriculture department at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. He advanced the department by introducing animal husbandry courses that did not exist prior to his appointment.

After a long absence from Alpha Phi Alpha, he returned in 1929 to deliver the Founder’s Address at the Twenty-Second General Convention. Charles Henry Chapman reiterated his dedication to the fraternity he helped create and the college he learned to love from that time until his death on November 17, 1934, of nephritis (lupus-induced kidney inflammation). In 1932, he assisted in the formation of a fraternity chapter at Florida A&M. His achievements at the university and with Alpha Phi Alpha are memorialized on his tombstone near Florida A&M.

Written by How Africa News

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