Sigma Pi Phi

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Sigma Pi Phi
Founded1904; 120 years ago (1904)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
EmphasisAfrican American
Colors  Pantone 3015 (Blue)
PublicationThe Boulé Journal
Members5,800 collegiate
NicknameBoulé, "a council of noblemen"
Headquarters260 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 1604
Atlanta, GA 30303
WebsiteOfficial website

Sigma Pi Phi (ΣΠΦ), also known as The Boulé, founded in 1904, is the oldest fraternity for African Americans. The fraternity does not have collegiate chapters and is designed for professionals at mid-career or older. Sigma Pi Phi was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The fraternity quickly established chapters (referred to as "member boulés"[A]) in Chicago, Illinois and then Baltimore, Maryland.[1] The founders included two doctors, a dentist and a pharmacist.[2] When Sigma Pi Phi was founded, black professionals were not offered participation in the professional and cultural associations organized by the white community.[3] Sigma Pi Phi has over 5,000 members and 139 chapters throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, Colombia and Brazil.[4]


Pharmacist and doctor who was Superintendent of the Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia for 24 years [5]

  • Eugene T. Hinson, MD -

Cofounder of Black founded and operated Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia, which opened in 1907.[5]

  • Robert J. Abele, MD (1975–1929)

Robert J. Abele graduated at the top of his 1895 class at Hahnemann University Medical School (and was its first Black graduate) who earned the highest score ever awarded at that point on the state’s medical certification test, the Pennsylvania State Qualifying Examination for Physicians, in 1897 (where he scored 97.3% out of 100%).[6][5]

A prominent African American physician, surgeon, writer, and columnist who contributed profoundly to the National Negro Health Movement, an organization which sought to uplift African Americans by educating them on preventative medicine and public health.[5]

  • Edwin C.J.T. Howard, MD (Oct 21, 1846 - May 10, 1912)

Harvard Medical School Class of 1869 who practiced medicine in Charleston South Carolina and then Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he founded Frederick Douglass Hospital in 1895 and Mercy Hospital in 1907[5][7]

  • Richard J. Warrick Jr., DDS (1880–1957)

Penn Dental School (Class of 1899), where he was 2nd Black person to graduate and oldest historically black university, Cheney University[8][9]


Membership in Sigma Pi Phi is highly exclusive, numbering only about 5,000.[10] The organization is known as "the Boulé," which means, in Ancient Greek "the Council".[11] Founded as an organization for professionals, Sigma Pi Phi never established collegiate chapters, and eliminated undergraduate membership during its infant stages.[12] However, Sigma Pi Phi has historically had a congenial relationship with intercollegiate Black Greek-letter organizations, as many members of Sigma Pi Phi are members of both. Sigma Pi Phi founder Henry McKee Minton and Martin Luther King Jr. were both members of Alpha Phi Alpha, while Arthur Ashe was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. Vernon Jordan and L. Douglas Wilder are members of Omega Psi Phi. James Weldon Johnson was a member of Phi Beta Sigma, as was civil rights leader and member of Congress John Lewis (D-GA). University of Massachusetts-Boston Chancellor, Dr. J. Keith Motley, and Hibernia Southcoast Capital CEO (Retired), Joseph Williams are members of Iota Phi Theta. Members of Sigma Pi Phi have provided leadership and service during the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Great Recession, and addressed social issues such as urban housing, and other economic, cultural, and political issues affecting people of African descent.

Notable members[edit]

Members of Sigma Pi Phi include:[13] W. E. B. Du Bois, civil rights leader and one of the founders of the NAACP; Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader; Robert J. Abele, Sigma Pi Phi founder and brother of Julian Abele, who served as the lead architect of Duke University; former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume; Ralph Bunche, a United Nations Ambassador and first African-American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; Andrew Young, civil rights leader and a mayor of Atlanta; Maynard Jackson, a mayor of Atlanta; Douglas Wilder, a Governor of Virginia; Kenneth Chenault, a CEO of American Express; Bobby Scott; C. O. Simpkins Sr.; Ken Blackwell; Eric Holder, a United States Attorney General;[14] Ron Brown; Vernon Jordan; Arthur Ashe; Mel Watt;[15] John Baxter Taylor Jr., the first African-American to win an Olympic Gold Medal; and Calvin Ball, first African-American County Executive.[16] Numerous other American leaders are among the men who have adopted the fraternity’s purpose of "creating a forum wherein they could pursue social and intellectual activities in the company of peers."[3] Sigma Pi Phi is open to members of all races, as can be demonstrated by its well-known Jewish member Jack Greenberg, who succeeded Thurgood Marshall as the leader of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.[17]

In media[edit]

Lawrence Otis Graham reports on the organization and his membership in it in the 1999 book Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The word boulé, derived from ancient Greek βουλή, originally referred to a council of nobles advising a king. It is also used by the African-American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.


  1. ^ "History". Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity — Beta Lambda. Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  2. ^ "University of the Sciences: A Science and Healthcare College | Philadelphia, PA | University of the Sciences". 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  3. ^ a b "". May 29, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-05-29. Retrieved Jan 12, 2021.
  4. ^ Olechowski, Carol (April 25, 2002). "Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Supports Scholarships for UAlbany Students" (Press release). University at Albany, SUNY.
  5. ^ a b c d e Harris, William H. (2012). Brown, Tamara L.; Parks, Gregory S.; Phillips, Clarenda M. (eds.). African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (2nd ed.). 104: University Press of Kentucky. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-8131-3662-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Sigma Pi Phi | History of the Boulé". Retrieved Jan 12, 2021.
  10. ^ "Historical Moment#19". Archived from the original on 2007-11-28. Retrieved 2008-01-02.
  11. ^ "Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Beta Lambda Boule". Sep 28, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved Jan 12, 2021.
  12. ^ "Historical Moment#30". Mar 6, 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-03-06. Retrieved Jan 12, 2021.
  13. ^ "NAACP - Timeline". Archived from the original on 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  14. ^ "Boulé Delegation Returns to Capitol Hill for Third Trip and Meets With Lawmakers and With Two Members of Obama's Cabinet - Sigma Pi Phi".
  15. ^ Watt, Mel (February 28, 2006). "Honoring Black History Month". Congressional Record. Retrieved 2006-10-08. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ "Archives -".
  17. ^ "1904–2004: the Boule at 100: Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity holds centennial celebration". Ebony. September 2004. Archived from the original on November 23, 2004. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  18. ^ Lawrence Otis Graham (January 6, 1999). Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class (First ed.). Harper. ISBN 0060183527.

External links[edit]