Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded January 16, 1920, at Howard University, Washington, D.C. The Klan was very active during this period and the Harlem Renaissance was acknowledged as the first important movement of Black artists and writers in the U.S. This same year the Volstead Act became effective heralding the start of Prohibition and Tennessee delivered the crucial 36th ratification for the final adoption of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. The worst and longest economic recession to hit the U.S. would define the end of the decade-The Great Depression.
It was within this environment that five coeds envisioned a sorority which would directly affect positive change, chart a course of action for the 1920s and beyond, raise consciousness of their people, encourage the highest standards of scholastic achievement, and foster a greater sense of unity among its members. These women believed that sorority elitism and socializing overshadowed the real mission for progressive organizations and failed to address fully the societal mores, ills, prejudices, and poverty affecting humanity in general and the black community in particular.