This is Alpha Chapter

Profiles of who we are:

This is Alpha Chapter #21 - 8/14/12

Scholarship: The 1913 Essay Contest

One of the prominent figures in the history of African American thought and education was Dean Kelly Miller.  Dean Miller received his BA and law degree from Howard in 1886 and 1903 respectively.  He served as Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Howard when the Fraternity was founded in 1911 and was instrumental in recruiting Bishop Love to Howard.  He was also selected as an honorary member of Alpha Phi Alpha shortly after Beta Chapter was established at Howard in 1907.  As such, he was a driving opponent to the Founders in establishing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.  But that’s another story for another time.

As with many scholars at that time, Dean Miller was an intellectual and a prolific writer as to the problems and solutions African Americans faced at the time.  In the Spring of 1913, He championed a national essay contest to all Black collegiate students on the subject “The Effect of Emancipation on the Physical Condition of the Afro-American.”  The contest came with a cash prize of $50.  This was a huge prize since tuition and fees at Howard ran around $170 a year (in today’s dollars, the prize would be equivalent to about $1,100…a nice piece of change!).

Hundreds of entries from around the country came pouring in!  The incentive was not only the money but the quality of subject matter.  As Scholarship, intellectual thought and high aspiration were foundational stones of Omega, several of the Brothers on the Yard participated in the contest.  Below are the entry request from two Brothers, Frank Wimberley (Charter Line) and Chauncey Harlee (Spring 1912).

Unfortunately, none of the Bros’ essays were the winner.  However, this demonstrates a perpetual quest for scholarship and thought provocation that is the hallmark of our Fraternity.

As a post script to Dean Miller’s opposition to the founding of Omega, the Bros got the last laugh: his son, Isaac Newton Miller, was initiated into Omega through Alpha Chapter in 1915 (more on this Brother along with Frank and Chauncey in future editions of This is Alpha Chapter).

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