The growth of NPHC fraternities and sororities, on both historically white and historically black campuses, can be viewed in three distinct phases:
Post World War I
Undergraduate chapters of NPHC affiliate organizations began to spread to major research universities admitting Blacks and to major historically Black colleges in the South. Graduate chapters were birthed in cities across the US as civic and service organizations, due to blatant racism prohibiting African Americans from participating in general civic organizations within their communities after college graduation.
Post World War II
NPHC affiliate chapters proliferated on southern historically Black college campuses. Many cultural traditions which differed markedly from historically white college traditions became refined and embedded within the African American tradition and culture (e.g., " lining" and public skits on campus as a part of "pledging").
Post Civil Rights Act 1964
Many colleges and universities which had previously denied admittance to African Americans or which had small enrollments grew in their enrollment of African Americans and established chapters on their campuses. Such actions caused the numbers of NPHC affiliate organizations to swell to over 400 undergraduate chapters and just as many graduate chapters on the average for each organization. Presently, there are approximately 1.5 million members of undergraduate and graduate affiliate chapters served by NPHC.
To understand the need for and concept of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., one must first consider, understand and familiarize oneself with the historical accounts and significance of predominantly Black Greek-letter organizations. While having their own distinct heritages, the nine (9) member organizations of NPHC offer insight and a unique perspective into this understanding and the development of Black socioeconomic and cultural life.

Each of the nine (9) NPHC organizations evolved during a period when African Americans were being denied essential rights and privileges afforded others. Racial isolation on predominantly white campuses and social barriers of class on all campuses created a need for African Americans to align themselves with other individuals sharing common goals and ideals. With the realization of such a need, the African American (Black) Greek-lettered organization movement took on the personae of a haven and outlet, which could foster brotherhood and sisterhood in the pursuit to bring about social change through the development of social programs that would create positive change for Blacks and the country. Today the need remains the same.
While NPHC affiliate organizations recognize the social aspect of Greek college life, the primary purpose and focus of member organizations remains community awareness and action through educational, economic, and cultural service activities. NPHC affiliates and their respective members have pledged to devote their resources to service in their respective communities, realizing that the membership experience of NPHC organizations goes beyond organizational membership during an individual’s college career. A lifetime commitment to the goals and ideals of each respective organization is stressed. The individual member is also expected to align himself with a graduate/alumni chapter, following graduation from college, with the expectation that he/she will attend regular chapter meetings, regional conferences and national conventions, and take an active part in matters concerning and affecting the community in which he or she lives.
The need to form campus-based councils to represent NPHC affiliate organizations is not motivated by a “separatist” philosophy. The establishment of councils assists in maintaining a distinct identity as “service based organizations,” as opposed to organizations that may be strictly social in nature; NPHC, Inc. does not advocate a disassociation from NIC, NPC, or NALFO organizations on college campuses. The council’s purpose is to promote unity and expose members to the “service for life” philosophy and foster leadership development and scholarship. Furthermore, the National Pan-Hellenic Council provides a forum for participation and interaction among the members of affiliate organizations and the organizations themselves. It provides for a stronger unified voice and a stronger unified body. The continued advocacy for the establishment of local councils not only stems from tradition, but also from the realization that many colleges and universities maintain organization registration policies requiring an organization to belong to a national organization and that national organization to a national umbrella organization, in order to function on that respective campus.
It is the endeavor of NPHC, Inc. to foster a more stable environment on campuses for local NPHC councils, provide a forum for dialogue, and provide training for and management of it's respective councils. Having such an entity in place to serve as an umbrella organization centralizes and provides a clearinghouse for information sanctioned by the NPHC Council of Presidents, whether on the university/college campus and/or in civic, social, and political arenas. It is essential to have such a voice to advocate concerns of local councils and assert the position of the national body, particularly in decisions or rulings that may have a negative impact.