“Talented” 10th District History
The 10th District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. respectfully refers to itself as the “Talented Tenth”. This is not an idle play on words. The rich history of the District and its Chapters bears out that fact. Even though one would consider us a “small District” our accomplishments says otherwise. The 10th District was the cradle of advanced education for four of our most distinguished members who attended the University of Chicago: Founder Dr. Ernest Everett Just (1916), Founder Professor Frank Coleman, Carter G. Woodson (1908), and Benjamin Mayes (1935). Brother Woodson created the Association for the Study of Life and History in 1915 at the Wabash Y located in the city of Chicago, which later became the forerunner of Black History Month. It was at this location that one of the oldest Chapters in the district, Sigma Chapter (1921) held its first meetings. The uniqueness of the District can also be found in the story of “Sigma Chapter.”
Beginning in 1920 with the first graduate chapters being chartered, it was realized a method to differentiate the new graduate chapters had to be established. The mandate from the 1922 Philadelphia Grand Conclave during the last week of December of that year was the first to require that when a new graduate chapter was chartered, the chapter name would be assigned by adding “Omega” as the second Greek letter to the end of the name of the undergraduate chapter that existed in that city. Since the Sigma Chapter had already been established in Chicago for the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, that meant the first graduate chapter established in Chicago would be named Sigma Omega… which happened when it was chartered on October 1, 1923. The graduate Brothers who were members of the “mixed” undergraduate Sigma Chapter, now had a new graduate chapter in Chicago to transfer their membership to and associate with – since to this point the closest graduate chapter to Chicago had been Nu Omega Chapter, 250 miles away in Detroit, MI, established 9 months previous in January 1923 as the first graduate chapter in what would become the Tenth District of the Fraternity. This approval by the Supreme Council to charter Sigma Omega simultaneously called for the Sigma Chapter undergraduate charter to be separated from Northwestern University and anchored solely on the campus of the University of Chicago. It should be noted that Northwestern University would receive their own charter for Psi Sigma Chapter in 1934.
The Sigma Chapter charter remained at the University of Chicago until Iota Chapter – the first graduate chapter of the Fraternity – and inactive in Atlantic City, NJ since May 1922 – was redesignated an undergraduate chapter, then relocated from Atlantic City and transferred to the University of Chicago on October 12, 1923 by an action of the Supreme Council. This displaced the undergraduate Sigma Chapter assigned there less than one month previous. Then on December 15, 1923 the Sigma Chapter charter was transferred by the Supreme Council to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and became the first International chapter of the Fraternity.
The roots of the 10th District run deep, having several of Omega’s single lettered undergraduate Chapters located here: Xi Chapter established at the University of Minnesota in 1921; Phi Chapter which was originally established in 1921 at Talladega College in Talladega, AL, then relocated to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor later that same year; the aforementioned Sigma Chapter which is now at Michigan State University after it was transferred there in 1961. Iota Chapter is now a chapter for graduate members in Chicago since 1995. Those roots have produced much fruit to make the “Talented Tenth” arguably one of Omega’s premier districts.
A meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1928 that led to the formation of the Pan Hellenic Council, which is affectionately called the “Divine Nine” which give credence to the history of the District as being the beginning of many “first” as it relates to the history of African Americans.
The roots produced, and the fruit grew from the first formal District Meeting held at the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 12-13 1937. With Grand Basileus Baugh in attendance, Brother Charles E. Harry presided over that gathering of five chapters: Iota from Chicago, Phi from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor, Nu Omega from Detroit, Sigma Omega from Chicago, and Zeta Phi from Indianapolis. A quote from the minutes state,
“Where we as delegates to the Tenth District Conference of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity have met and discussed issues vital to the general welfare of the Fraternity, as well as the Negro population to such an extent that there has resulted in much enlightenment and a need for a coordinated effort evidenced by all assembled. We do resolve that the delegates to the first conference of the Tenth District go on record as recommending that there be a continuation of such conferences” – Brother Nelson Harris, 1937.
History records that the District’s first appointment as Representative was Brother Francis Dent, credited with chartering Nu Omega Chapter in Detroit Michigan in 1923. Its first elected Representative was Brother Charles E. Harry III, a charter member of Zeta Phi.
At the 57th Grand Conclave, Bro. Brunel E. Coulon was elected First Vice Grand Basileus, in Atlanta, Georgia. After serving two terms, Bro. Coulon elected as the 31st Grand Basileus on the first ballot during the 1979 Grand Conclave in Denver, Colorado.
Although the 10th District originally was comprised of the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan; Minnesota and Wisconsin were later added to its ranks. The 10th District has served the Fraternity by having five Grand Basilei to lead Omega, and have hosted eleven Grand Conclaves.