Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded on the simple belief that sorority elitism and socializing should not overshadow the real mission for progressive organizations - to address societal mores, ills, prejudices, poverty, and health concerns of the day. Founded on January 16, 1920, Zeta began as an idea conceived by five coeds at Howard University in Washington D.C.: Arizona Cleaver, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, Fannie Pettie and Pearl Neal. These women dared to depart from the traditional coalitions for African-American women and sought to establish a new organization based on the ideology of Scholarship, Service, Sisterly love, and Finer Womanhood. It was the ideal of the Founders that the Sorority would reach college women in all parts of the country who were sorority minded and desired to follow the founding principles of the organization.
Since its inception, the sorority has expanded to encompass more than 800 chapters located throughout the United States, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and is the first and only sorority to be constitutionally bound to a brother fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
The Founders of Zeta were strong, principled coeds who possessed a great deal of modesty, strength of character and pride in academic achievement. They are indeed a worthy foundation upon which to base our illustrious Sorority.
Arizona Cleaver Stemons: Arizona Cleaver was the first president of Alpha chapter and the first national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She completed her graduate and post- graduate studies in the field of social work and was responsible for chartering numerous undergraduate and graduate chapters throughout the United States.
Pearl Anna Neal: After graduating from Howard University’s Conservatory of Music, Founder Neal continued her studies at the Julliard School of Music. In 1938, she was the first black woman in New York to earn a master’s degree in music from Columbia University. An extremely accomplished musician, Founder Neal taught music in North Carolina public schools and served as a director of seniors majoring in music at Teachers College in Winston Salem, NC.
Myrtle Tyler Faithful: Myrtle Tyler was the second national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and blood sister to Viola Tyler. A high school mathematics and English teacher, Founder Tyler was an active member of Alpha Zeta chapter in Baltimore, Maryland.
Viola Tyler Goings: Viola Tyler graduated from Howard University with a teaching degree and a major in math. She taught school in Ohio for many years and was always very active in community affairs.
Fannie Pettie Watts: Fannie Pettie graduated from Howard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and taught junior and senior high schools in Savannah, Georgia. She was credited with organizing two additional Zeta chapters and had active membership in Delta Alpha Zeta chapter.