A great deal of research material in Finer Women came from Howard University, specifically the Moorland Spingarn Research Center. Interestingly enough my last trip to Howard happened quite by accident. As I was preparing to leave Washington, DC I realized that I forgot my driver’s license at the library. I kicked myself for having to navigate the treacherous DC traffic simply because I was too busy thinking about where I was going to eat when I left instead of focusing on the important things.
Ms. Joellen ElBashir, manuscript curator, found my license and we got lost in conversation. She encouraged me to take a look at the Howard University Record for possible references to Zeta Phi Beta. As much as I love libraries, I hate being hungry so I did a quick hunger check—still full from breakfast and buzzed from my morning coffee—and said bring it on.
As I was looking through the June 1920 edition I came across something that gave me chills: a “sororities” report detailing the welcome reception given by Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta in honor of Zeta’s founding. The fact that AKA and Delta threw a party for Zeta wasn’t new information, but the date was: April 27, 1920. It took place in the Assembly Room of Miner Hall, the female dormitory on campus. Isadore Williams Miles, President of Delta presided. Inabel Burns Lindsay, President of AKA gave the welcome, and Arizona Cleaver Stemons, President of Zeta Phi Beta addressed the gathered audience. Additional remarks were made by various members of AKA, Delta and Zeta, followed by a solo dance, a vocal selection, a piano solo, refreshments and dancing.
I was once asked why there is just a brief mention in the book about this event, and what Stemons specifically said in her address. The answer is that what I presented in the book was all I could find, and even though the account is brief, it is power-packed. I have never seen a date for the AKA-Delta-Zeta party (any event that includes dancing equals a party in my book) so for me and more importantly for Zeta Phi Beta, having a date is a big deal.