Originally published by ABC/Jade Lawson and Sean Sanders

From the fight for freedom in the civil rights era to Hollywood to the White House, members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council — also known as The Divine Nine — continue to be a catalyst for change on college campuses and beyond.

The Black Greek-letter organizations represent the collective purposes of scholarship, service and the power of community.

“Sisterhood has obviously been something I’ve gained, but I’ve loved being able to serve in a capacity like this — being able to give back to the community in ways that I was able to receive from a young age,” Nya Christian, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., told “Good Morning America.” “That’s something that I really value in this life and being in this sorority.”

Composed of four sororities and five fraternities, you can often hear members of organizations within the National Pan-Hellenic Council shouting a chant, doing a step or hosting a community service event.

“They understood that their education was not enough; they had to work as a group to lift up people who didn’t have those circumstances and at the same time fight for themselves,” said Lawrence Ross, author of “The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities.”

Ross, who joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. in the spring of 1985, added, “I basically looked at Alpha as being a conduit for what I wanted to do within the African American community, which was basically internal growth for my own self, working with brothers who actually have the exact same sort of mentality.”

In this March 20, 1956 file photo James E. Huger, Gen. Secretary of Alphi Phi Alpha fraternity, presents a check for $1,000 to Rev. Martin Luther King as they arrived for the second day in court.
Bettmann Archive via Getty Images, FILE

Prominent leaders such as Kamala Harris and the late John Lewis and entertainers such as Angela Bassett and Sheryl Lee Ralph, as well as influential athletes including Michael Jordan and Colin Kaepernick, were all members of “D9” organizations.

The foundation

The Divine Nine, according to the National Pan-Hellenic Council website, “evolved during a period when African Americans were being denied essential rights and privileges afforded others.”

Racial isolation at predominantly white college campuses and social barriers such as class also created “a need for African Americans to align themselves with other individuals sharing common goals and ideals,” the organization added.

Following Alpha Phi Alpha — the first Black Greek-lettered fraternity, which was founded at Cornell University in 1906 — eight other organizations followed. Five were founded at Howard University, including Alpha Kappa Alpha (1908), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. (1911), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. (1913), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. (1914) and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. (1920).

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