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Carolina has created a plaza to highlight and commemorate the Divine Nine, the nine Black Greek fraternities and sororities that exist on college campuses nationwide.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza is located on South Campus between the Student and Academic Services buildings North and South. It consists of nine columns representing each of the Greek organizations, with pillars arranged in chronological order of when they were chartered at UNC.
Donors’ names are displayed on an inner circle of pavers and an outer circle of bricks.
The nine Black Greek fraternities and sororities are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Iota Phi Theta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta.
Alpha Phi Alpha, which was founded in 1906 on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among its ranks, is the oldest Black Greek fraternity.
Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and includes Vice President Kamala Harris as a member, is the oldest Black Greek sorority.
“It is such a blessing that we can celebrate African American excellence because, as far as I’m concerned, that is what our Greek organizations reflect,” UNC Board of Trustees member and AKA member Teresa Artis Neal said at the plaza ribbon cutting ceremony in October, according to UNC’s newsletter, The Well. “When we think back to the history of the founding of all of our Greek organizations, they were founded by people who were tremendously courageous, who were leaders and who believed in excellence.”
Amy Johnson, vice chancellor for student affairs, said the plaza “honors the legacies of Carolina’s historically Black fraternities and sororities.” She added that NPHC members and alumni have “helped make Carolina what it is. We thank you and pay tribute to your work.”
Fundraising efforts for the plaza began in 2017. Student Affairs Director of Development Zack Hawkins told The Well the plaza provides NPHC fraternities and sororities a gathering place on campus, “a home for them to share their culture, not only amongst themselves but with the entire campus. This is a safe space for them to have fun, enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another.”
Officials hope students will use the NPHC Legacy Plaza as a starting point for learning more about the history of Black Greek organizations and the important contributions they make, particularly in the realms of service and scholarship.
“I do believe that the plaza will raise a lot of questions and hopefully awareness,” NPHC President and UNC junior Jordyn Earl told The Well. “When I walked up and saw it for the first time, I was in tears. It was an amazing experience to not only see my legacy, but the legacy of all of NPHC at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s just a huge stepping stone for the entire Black community, to be able to see our legacy and take it all in as one.”
— Laurie D. Willis ’86