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Kamala, First & The Illustrious: Who Actually Put HBCUs On The Map

As Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) resurface in the public eye in response to the newly-elected VP’s educational background, it is important that we acknowledge that these institutions have produced quality individuals for as long as they have been around, not just as of recently. HBCUs have been around for 184 years, and since then, have continued to train, uplift and produce some of the most successful men and women that we know of today. HBCUs have made a monumental impact on our country and world, however, somehow many see these educational institutions as centers for leisure and unprofessionalism. Moving forward in society, it is time for the rest of the world to pay their respects and acknowledge HBCUs and their capability. Once you are able to move past the idea of colleges made for blacks, you will be able to see who and all we are. The rich history, traditions, standards, and cultures that we hold. The list is too long to mention what all HBCUs can do. Just know we (been) had the range.

As we move into Black History Month, it is important that we recognize the birthing centers of black success, known as HBCUs. In this article, I have created a small list of just a few of the successful African Americans that we all know and love that came from your beloved and illustrious Tuskegee’s and Howard’s. As you read through this list, I hope you learn that while we love having a HBCU grad in the White House, she did not put us on the map. *respectfully* However, these seven did:

1. Thurgood Marshall, Lincoln University

Thurgood Marshall was a prominent lawyer and civil rights activist who became the first African-American justice to serve on the Supreme Court in 1967. One of the most famous cases he worked on was the Brown vs. Board of Education, which ruled that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 with a B.A. in American Literature and Psychology. He also attended Howard University Law School, where he received his degree in 1933.

2.Toni Morrison, Howard University

Toni Morrison was a literary legend, poet, and professor most known for her novels: The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, making her the first black woman to win the award. Just last year, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English. 

3. Rev, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse College

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, speaker, and civil rights leader most known for his work during the Civil Rights Movement, advancing civil rights through nonviolence and advocating for blacks’ voting rights, labor rights, and desegregation. In 1963, he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, at the March on Washington in D.C. Dr. King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a B.A. in Sociology.

4. Booker T. Washington, Hampton University

Booker T. Washington was a notorious author, educator, and orator, who was born into slavery and went on to become one of the leading African American intellectuals of the 19th century. Washington attended Hampton Institute (now known as Hampton University), and then went on to be the founder of Hampton’s sister school, Tuskegee Institute (now known as Tuskegee University) in Alabama, in 1881.

5. Katherine Johnson, West Virginia State University

Katherine Johnson was an exceptional mathematician who is most famous for being one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist. Her calculations working at NASA contributed towards the success of the first U.S. spaceflight that sent astronauts to the moon. Johnson graduated from West Virginia State University in 1937 with degrees in Mathematics and French.

6. Alice Walker, Spelman College

Alice Walker was a distinguished novelist, poet, and social activist, most known for The Color Purple which she published in 1982, granting her a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction shortly after. Walker also coined the term, womanist, which is a black feminist or feminist of color. Walker attended Spelman College in 1961.

7. Oprah Winfrey, Tennessee State University

Oprah Winfrey is an influential talk show host, producer, actress, author, and philanthropist, known for The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated tv program of its kind in history. She is the first Black multi-billionaire in the country and was ranked the most influential woman in the world. Winfrey graduated from Tennessee State University in 1987.

These seven groundbreaking figures are just a few of many HBCU alumni in the world who have done and are doing exceptional work, with outstanding achievements and titles. Do not sleep on us, because we are the future. If you are ever looking for the next leaders of our world, check your nearest HBCU.

Raven Harper

Hampton U '22

Raven Harper @raejhene is a Graduating Senior at Hampton University studying Journalism and Marketing. She serves as the campus correspondent over Hampton's chapter. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking new things, iced coffee and endless scrolling on pinterest.
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