Five Decades of Black Greeks at Duke

Omega Psi Phi initiation at Duke in 1978. Courtesy Duke University Archives.

Alumni panel shares memories of groups that built support for Black students

Two distinguished Duke alumni participated in a recent panel discussion at Page Auditorium to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Omega Psi Phi at Duke, and the other Black Greek Letter Organizations (BLGO) on campus.

Michael Morgan, who retired from the North Carolina Supreme Court to run for governor of North Carolina, was a member of Duke’s inaugural pledges for the Omega Psi Phi fraternity in 1974.

Gail Morgan is a pediatrician and radiologist. She was an inaugural member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority that was established at Duke in 1975.

It seemed appropriate for the Morgans to be seated next to each other on the Page Auditorium stage. Omegas, also known as “Ques,” and Deltas have always been close. The Morgans are not married, but Frank Charles Coleman, one of the co-founders of Omega Psi Phi in 1911, married Edna Mae Brown, who co-founded Delta Sigma Theta in 1913.

Michael Morgan said Duke’s support of BLGOs during the 1970s was in concert with the national zeitgeist that embraced popular Black culture.

“At that time in the culture of America, it was great to be Black and beautiful, and to recognize that in the early to mid-1970s, pop culture was embracing Black lives,” Michael Morgan said.

“‘James Brown was my main man. Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud’ still resonated. Shirley Chisholm was running for president in 1972. The leading television shows of the era were Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and Good Times, and that was the time for blaxploitation movies, led by Shaft and Superfly. They were all the rage.

“So we had a way of knowing it was great to be Black. We wore our dashikis. We were wearing our afros, wearing our necklaces, and really promoting the culture and Duke was sensitive to that.”