Burke & Burke

Can you imagine for a moment, I’m stumbling around Ancestry.com about three years ago, when I learned sisters Lillie E. and Beulah E. Burke, two of the original 9 founders of my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority Inc., and I, are related.

I wiped my glasses; not sure of what I had just read. My cousins? I had to memorize their entire names when I pledged undergrad in the Spring of 1981, completely unaware of my lineage. You see, we share the same great, great, great, grandmother, Sally Rooks – so that makes us cousins, 3 times removed.

Our great-grandmother Sally, bore four beautiful girls with her father’s enslaved man, Jacob. Because Sally was white and free, her daughters were born free – per the slave code, “slavery a permanent condition, inherited through the mother.”

The four Rooks sisters would marry four, free, men of color which created the four branches of the Sally & Jacob (Rooks) tree – the Reid branch (my paternal side), Green, Reynolds and Burke’s.

The Burke sisters, born free in the mid-1880s in Hertford, North Carolina, moved to Washington DC with their parents. There they attended and graduated from Howard Preparatory School in 1904 before being enrolled at Howard College, now a University. They both graduated from Howard in 1908, but not before they were instrumental in creating the nations, first black, Greek letter Sorority.

Together with seven other women, the Burke sisters founded AKA on January 15, 1908. Beulah having studied Greek suggested “Alpha – Kappa – Alpha” to be the name of the sorority and she also penned the organization’s motto – by culture, by merit! Her suggestion of the sorority’s colors: salmon pink and apple green, were adopted.

After graduation, the Burke sisters kept close ties with Howard and their growing sorority. They continued to be involved ensuring the sorority was nationalized, incorporated, and chapters started across the United States.

I had no clue when I decided to pledge AKA in 1981…clueless. Today, I’m proud to be remotely associated with an entity of this nature and calibure. SkeeWee #4Spr81

Ref Wiki: Alpha Kappa Alpha has a membership of over 300,000 women internationally, with 90,000 active members of diverse backgrounds and professions.[2] Graduate members constitute the largest percentage of membership.[113] Alpha Kappa Alpha has over 1000 chapters, located in the United States, the CaribbeanCanada, and South Africa.[114]

Alpha Kappa Alpha’s formation was conceived by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle of St. Louis, Missouri. She viewed the sorority as an “instrument for enriching the social and intellectual aspects of college life through scholarship and mental stimulation, through interaction with friends in sisterhood, and through stewardship of the community in service. “

Young Lille Burke. Circa Unknown
Young BeuLah Burke

Pledging at Lambda Phi Chapter, UMBC – Spring 1981..

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1 thought on “Burke & Burke

  1. Wow, what a wonderful discovery!


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