People often question why African Americans would pledge APO and have theories or thoughts about who our founders were and how our fraternity operated. Although myself and quite a few others could care less what anyone says, I looked into these claims out of curiosity. And found out some pretty interesting facts.
First, that we've had several African American members just 20 years after our founding BEFORE Delta Phi was chartered, including Darwin T. Turner, William Tebeau, Horace Anderson, Anthony W. Ray, Springfield College, and more.
Second, a lot of people know that Delta Phi at Johnson C. Smith was the first APO HBCU chapter, but not the events surrounding it.
At the 9th National Convention in 1946, the subject of an all "Negro" chapter was brought up.
Please Note: FOUNDING Advisor Dr. Ray O. Wyland was alive and attended the convention and vote AND that EVERY APO Founder except for ONE (William Werber Highberger) were still alive at this time, there is not evidence of them attending the vote, but nonetheless they were still alive.
H. Roe Bartle, commonly known as "The Chief" was president at the time and took the vote. The outcome of the vote was 79/84 agreed that the fraternity should I "include in its membership men of social fraternities and men of races, creeds, and colors, being elected by respective chapters, etc." Horace Anderson is believed to be an African American brother that made this moving speech and The Chief expressed his gratitude for the group making the right decision.
Years later, Dr. Ray O. Wyland was quoted saying "We had a convention in Kansas City in 1946 when the question was up about issuing a charter for a group of Negro men. The question was debated as to whether colored men should be brought into the fellowship. Somebody asked me whether this group would make the right decision. I said 'Here are college-trained men, Scout-trained men, Alpha Phi Omega men. If this group doesn't make the right decision, where under heaven will you find a group that will make the right decision?' Without a dissenting voice they voted right! In Alpha Phi Omega there is a spirit bigger and broader than racial lines. It is world-wide in its comprehension"
Dr. Ray O. Wyland went on to officiate our first black chapter's installation.
So in 1946, during a time of "separate but equal" via Plessy v. Ferguson the men of APO decided to include these groups. Our Founders, a Founding Advisor, National President, and many others made this decision. Noteworthy. This is not to say that racial prejudice did not exist within APO. Racism and prejudice is built into every aspect of this country, including inside of the fraternity, whether they admit it or not, but despite that they made a decision that others STILL would not make today.