Black fraternities and the choice to brand

Sigma being branded

Pledging a fraternity is one of the greatest experiences a college student can have, especially at a Historically Black College or University. It is a binding of traditions that have been passed down for more than 100 years in Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi and Phi Beta Sigma. But there is one tradition that only a select few members of the organization participate in, branding.

Branding is a decision usually made after a pledgee becomes a brother and is never forced on the member of the organization. It should be noted that no national fraternity officially condones the practice of branding, but it occurs on a regular basis. The person to be branded has “just crossed the sands” and is in high spirits and easily can get swept away in the joy of completing a great accomplishment. Getting a brand consists of finding a fraternity member who is a “hit master.” This person is a respected brother, who knows what they are doing when making a brand.


A piece of metal, usually shaped into the fraternities Greek letters, is heated until it is red-hot. Depending on the fraternity, ice is applied to the intended brother’s arm or chest to numb the area.  Some fraternities however, may slap and punch the area until it is numb, this is known as “slapping it numb.” he red hot brand is then placed briefly on the skin, this is called a “hit.”  This causes a second or third degree burn on the skin in the shape of the Greek letter. If done properly, the burn heals into a lifelong scar that signifies membership in the fraternity.

Here are a few images of fraternity brands:


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