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The 1930s

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Charlotte "Lottie" B. Wilson

The 1930s marked a very tumultuous time in America. The Great Depression was in full force and the financial crisis also affected the members of the chapter. Amongst one of the prevalent problems in 1930 was the payment of chapter dues. There were only 33% of brothers who were financial even with threats of suspension from the Grand Chapter. The Beta brothers were also concerned about the presence of Beta Chapter in New York since 4 out of 5 men from New York pledged a different fraternity. These challenges, however, did not sway Beta’s resolve to push forward with the celebration of their Achievement Week Program. The culminating program featured speeches by Bro. Van Buren Luke (A Circumspect of Negro Achievement) and Brother Fontaine (The Obligation of College Negro Youth). In 1935 Bro. Barrington Parker (Basileus) saw the Achievement Week Program feature Bro. Thurman L. Dodson, President of the Colored Bar Association in Washington D.C.


In the fall of 1937 Bro. Herbert “Sugar” Cain was Basileus of the chapter who saw to the initiation of fourteen brothers which included Lincoln University football star Vernon Brock and James “Bo” Bohannon who was the songbird of the campus. The brothers during this period expanded their Achievement Week programming to include social events as well. Their summation program featured former Grand Basileus Lawrence Oxley who gave a rousing oration.


Following the program, the brother held an afternoon tea in the Guest House. They also held a smoker for new initiates. Beta was also well represented with three delegates at the 25th Grand Conclave in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1938 Bro. Cain graduated valedictorian with honors but not before Beta hosted a Mardi Gras which was attended by brothers and other guest from all over the eastern seaboard.


The latter part of the 1930s saw Bro. Melvin B. Tolson take over as managing editor of the Oracle. Additionally, Beta Chapter, headed by John W. Thomas as Basileus, celebrated her silver anniversary recognizing 25 years in the fraternity. It was a grand occasion that began on February 19, 1939 with a sermon by Rev. Dwight Vincent Kyle, Jr. It was followed by an inter-fraternal panel, an initiative spearheaded by the Beta brothers, was presented at a smoker. The brothers held a banquet on Feb. 23 and a reunion for Beta brothers on Feb. 25th. The celebration was closed with a presentation of the Omega Glee Club of New York City, and Frederick S. Weaver, former editor of the Oracle as guest speaker. Also, Bro. Oscar James Cooper, who was a former Basileus of Beta Chapter, gave a speech during the celebration. Bro. Langston Hughes sent his regards via a telegram that was read during the celebration. Beta did not forget the possibility that were it not for the generosity of Charlotte “Lottie B” Wilson, twenty-five years in existence would not have been possible. The brothers presented Sister Wilson with an engraved medal in appreciation for her dedicated service to the chapter.

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