411 E. State Street
Archie and Annie Singleton’s residence at 411 E. State Street in Ithaca, the meeting place of a literary society, called the Social Study Club, and birthplace of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

In the early 1900s, Cornell was one of a few major universities that welcomed Black students, but social segregation of the time prohibited them from living in campus housing.

Instead, Black students found lodging and community with local Black families; in a literary society formed in one of these houses, a group of students recognized that their white classmates found academic and social success by becoming fraternity members, which created support networks.

This realization led seven Black Cornell students to found the nation’s first African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, in 1906. The fraternity has since built approximately 900 chapters across the country and has championed civil rights; its illustrious alumni include Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Dubois, Duke Ellington and Thurgood Marshall.

Now, the founding chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha is celebrating the acquisition of two properties: 411 E. State St., its birthplace, which will be made into a monument; and 105 Westbourne Lane, purchased in Sept. 2021 for $1.5 million, which will become the first physical fraternity house owned by Alpha Phi Alpha in Ithaca.

“The memorial will realize an aspiration of our founding members, who dreamed of having a monument to the beginning of Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities in Ithaca, which will hopefully center attention around the reason why we were founded when we couldn’t be members in mainstream society,” said Ernest Eric Elmore ’86, J.D. ‘89, an antitrust attorney at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. and former president of the Alpha Chapter Alumni Association.

Related: First Black fraternity to build monument at its birthplace in Ithaca (Ithaca.com)