Alpha Kappa Alpha remembers founderBy Yasmine Regester / April 28, 2017
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In a sea of pink and green, more than 150 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. joined together to honor one of the original founders, Margaret Flagg Holmes, with a historical marker.
The N.C. Historical Marker is placed at Bethel AME Church, on the corner of Regan Street and East Market Street in Greensboro, N.C., the church Holmes attended as a child.
“We are very excited to honor one of our very own for her accomplishments in education, community service and leadership. We are so happy to be here,” said Joyce Henderson, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Board of Directors.
Holmes is recognized as one of the original nine founders of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the nation’s first Black Greek-letter sorority founded on January 15, 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was born in Greensboro, N.C., on September 6, 1886, to Rev. Lewis and Callie McAdoo Flagg. Her family were members of Bethel AME Church, and she attended elementary school in Greensboro.
Holmes’ family migrated to Washington, D.C., where she graduated from M. Street High School (later called Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1904. She entered Howard University in September 1904 on scholarship and graduated in 1908 with degrees in History, English and Latin. Holmes earned a Master’s in Philosophy from Columbia University in New York in 1917.
Nine years after her graduation, the talented teacher married John Holmes and moved to Chicago. Holmes devoted her energy to teaching a college preparatory curriculum at the high school level for more than 30 years, mostly in Chicago, Illinois. Her community engagement continued with her involvement in the NAACP, the YWCA and the Chicago school system, which recognized her as an outstanding Latin teacher. An avid traveler, she toured the United States, Canada and Europe with her husband. Holmes died in 1976.
Holmes served as president, vice president and recording secretary of the Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Chicago, where she was an active member for more than 30 years. As a founder of the organization, Holmes helped write Alpha Kappa Alpha’s first constitution and bylaws. Its founders were among the fewer than 1,000 African Americans enrolled in higher education institutions in 1908, and the 25 women who received Bachelor of Arts degrees from Howard University between 1908 and 1911.
The original nine juniors and seniors who constituted the initial core group of founding members were led by Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle) and included Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Marie Woolfolk (Taylor), and Holmes plus seven sophomores, who were extended an invitation for membership without initiation, comprises what is acknowledged as Alpha Kappa Alpha’s original 16 founding members.
Henderson noted the process to get the marker took about 6-8 months and included working with the N.C. Historical Marker Program and the City of Greensboro.
Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem, Yvonne Johnson, who is also a member of the Beta Iota Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. spoke at the unveiling, “This marker is a wonderful thing to have in our city. This is a reminder that this community produced a woman who was an educator and a leader.”
The Mid-Atlantic Region of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated encompasses North Carolina and Virginia and is home to 130 graduate and undergraduate chapters, and more than 7,000 members.
According to the organization’s Web site, the international sorority has grown into a force of more than 290,000 collegiate members and alumnae, constituting 997 chapters in 42 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Germany, Liberia, South Korea, Japan, Canada, South Africa and the Middle East.
Dr. Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, AKA International President, noted that the organization is installing more historical markers in an effort to continue to educate people on the sorority’s long-standing history.
“It’s important for people to know we are installing markers all over the country. Not only in recognition of our founders, but also in recognition of outstanding members of the sorority who have had noteworthy accomplishments,” said Wilson. “I think that as a people, African Americans, it is important for us to document our history.”