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The fraternity was founded by 12 men — Albert Hicks, Lonnie Spruill Jr. Charles Briscoe, Frank Coakley, John Slade, Barron Willis, Webster Lewis, Charles Brown, Louis Hudnell, Charles Gregory, Elias Dorsey Jr. Michael Williams — during the Civil Rights Movement. Unlike most of their fraternity peers, the founders were all non-traditional students. Many of them were three to five years older, worked and attended classes full time, had served in the military, and had families with small children. These experiences gave the founders a different perspective than the typical fraternity member.
Brothers participated in various protests and sit-ins throughout Baltimore to fight racial segregation. The earliest was a protest organized with a civic interest group, composed mostly of Morgan State College students, against the theater at Northwood Shopping Center in Baltimore, Maryland, located diagonally across the street from Morgan State College. This protest started February 15, 1963, and over the course of the six days, the total number of picketers involved reached 1500, and over 400 individuals were arrested. The protest took place in the context of a longer history of protests against the theater’s white-only policy. Annual demonstrations against the theater had been held since 1955, including a sit-in at Northwood and picketing downtown.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the fraternity supported the Big Brothers of America. In 1974, the then Grand Polaris, Thomas Dean, appeared in a local television commercial on behalf of Big Brothers of America. The first steps toward moving the fraternity from a regional to a national scope were taken with the creation of Upsilon Chapter at Southern Illinois University in 1974. While its NIC membership was and is beneficial, Iota continued contact with the NPHC, which at the time had no expansion policy with which to accept new members. At its 1993 national convention, the NPHC adopted a constitutional amendment which provided for expansion, and several years later, a NPHC expansion committee developed criteria for potential new member organizations and a procedure by which they might apply.
In 1996, Iota Phi Theta submitted a formal application to the NPHC expansion committee for review, after which it was delivered to the NPHC Executive Board. After deliberation, the board unanimously approved Iota Phi Theta’s membership application. Effective November 12, 1996, Iota Phi Theta was accepted as a full member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, with all its rights, privileges, and responsibilities. In 1992, the fraternity established the National Iota Foundation, Inc.
September 19, 2013 marked the fraternity’s 50th anniversary. Since its founding date, Iota Phi Theta has continued to grow and has become the fifth-largest and fastest growing predominantly black fraternal organization in the United States. Iota Phi Theta is led by a Grand Council with a Grand Polaris at its head. Iota Phi Theta has a publication and several affiliated programs.
The Centaur magazine is the official publication of the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. First published as a newsletter, the Centaur is now published biannually. Please remedy this by editing this article to remove any non-free copyrighted content and attributing free content correctly, or flagging the content for deletion. In spring 2016, the fraternity created an initiative designed to address and end all forms of abuse. IOTAS Saving, Healing, Improving, Empowering Lives Daily”. African Americans and other communities of color. In January 2015, the fraternity partnered with the ARC to provide assistance to communities through the United States in the areas of blood drives, disaster relief operations and other areas in which they believe cooperation and support will be mutually beneficial.
Since 2012, the fraternity has supported St. Jude primarily through the annual St. Teams composed of members of the brothers, Sweethearts, and their families and supporters raise funds throughout the year and run or walk during the event. Established in Spring 2016, this program raises awareness of preventable health problems and encourages early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Chapters sponsor health awareness seminars, workshops, and ‘hands-on’ support for fraternity members, other African American males, and men of color.
Impact Others Through Awareness by Implementing Public Health Initiatives Throughout the World. I-PhiT is a volunteer-based organization founded in 2011 by its President and CEO, Iota brother David Odige. I-PhiT and Iota Phi Theta have joined to address national and international public health issues through education, community involvement, and awareness. In the early growth and development of the fraternity, Morgan State University staff member Audrey Brooks assisted the Brothers and became a vital resource to Iota Phi Theta, providing protection and support for the fledgling organization. In recognition of her support, the fraternity granted Ms. Brooks the title of “Eternal Sweetheart”.