The 1960's were a decade of change. The country as a whole and African-Americans in particular
were challenging existing norms. The founding brothers of Iota Phi Theta personified these
provocative and thoughtful changes. This quote from former Grand Polaris Arkley Johnson is
reflective of the time:
"Each man, though one among many men, is still very much himself - with or without Iota Phi
Theta. The concepts of a fraternity, especially a Black fraternity, cannot be reconciled
without thorough consideration of this creed.
The struggle must continue and Black organizations must recognize the roles they play in unifying and teaching."
It was this perspective that led to the founding of Iota Phi Theta and the establishment of
its purpose: "The development and perpeutation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and
Brotherhood among Men of Color."
The founders understood that to congregate within the framework of an organization yet
to be allowed to maintain one's individuality is fundamental to the Black race. From this,
they felt that the preservation of one's individuality should be a basic tenet of any
organization which would exist to benefit the African-American condition.
Iota Phi Theta was founded on September 19, 1963 at Morgan State University in Baltimore,
Maryland by twelve men. They were: Albert Hicks, Lonnie Spruill, Jr., Charles Briscoe,
Frank Coakley, John Slade, Baron Willis, Webster Lewis, Charles Brown, Louis Hudnell,
Charles Gregory, Elias Dorsey, Jr., and Michael Williams.
These men were unique because,for the most part, they were "non-traditional" students. Most were 3 to 5 years older than the average college student. Some were married, some were service veterans, and some were
holding full-time jobs in addition to their academic pursuits. In addition to all of this,
many had been long time friends since the days of their childhood, giving them a bond that
most collegians did not have the privilege to experience.
Based upon their ages, heightened responsibilities, and increased level of maturity, this
group had a slightly different perspective than the norm for college students. Because of t
his perspective, their vision of the concept of "fraternity" was much different from the
prevailing norms and mindsets of those times.
Iota Phi Theta was born out of their desire to consummate this vision.