The first United States Greek letter society was Phi Beta Kappa, formed in 1776 as a philosophy and literary group at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. In 1825, a group at Union College in New York developed a social fraternity with the Greek letters Kappa Alpha. Others copied these primarily social groups and a system grew nationwide. Women's sororities began in the late 1850s.
Black college students developed fraternities of their own in the early 1900s. They are known as service Greeks because their primary focus is community service.
More than 725,000 US college students are currently members of national organizations and many more belong to independent groups.