Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are cornerstones of the African-American community and their graduates have shaped national politics, entertainment, business and academia. There are 106 HBCUs across the nation and each one provides a culturally rich and exemplary academic experience for their diverse and highly motivated students.
In this photo gallery, NewsOne.com recognizes HBCU graduates who have been successful leaders and trailblazers in their respective fields. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it is an eclectic sampling of the greatness that our HBCUs produce.
1. Taraji P. Henson
Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson graduated from Howard University (Washington, DC) in 1995 with a Bachelor’s degree in theatre arts.
2. Barbara Jordan
Attorney Barbara Jordan, former U.S. Representative and legendary Civil Rights leader, graduated from Texas Southern University (Houston, TX) in 1956 with a Bachelor’s degree in political science.
3. Kweisi Mfume
Former Congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1976 from Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD).
Grammy Award-winning rapper Common (real name Lonnie Lynn, Jr.) graduated from Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, FL) with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.
5. Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison graduated from Howard University (Washington, DC) in 1953 with a Bachelor’s degree in English.
6. Colbert I. King
Colbert I. King, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and former deputy editor for the Washington Post, graduated from Howard University (Washington, DC) in 1961 with a Bachelor’s degree in government.
7. Keshia Knight Pulliam
An Emmy-nominated actress and Cosby Kid, Keshia Knight Pulliam graduated from Spelman College (Atlanta, GA) in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology.
8. Herman Cain
Herman Cain, former Republican 2012 presidential hopeful and Godfather’s Pizza magnate, graduated from Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA) in 1967 with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
9. Spike Lee
Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee graduated from Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA) in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in mass communication.
10. Phylicia Rashad
Tony Award-winning actress, singer and stage director, Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as attorney Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” graduated from Howard University (Washington, DC) in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
11. Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice, one of the most decorated wide receivers in NFL history, began his college career at Mississippi Valley University (Itta Bena, MS) in the 1980s and earned his Bachelor’s degree in health and physical education 17 years later.
12. Ed Bradley
Ed Bradley, famed journalist, White House correspondent and long-time anchor of “60 Minutes,” graduated from Pennsylvania’s Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University) in 1964 with a Bachelor’s degree in education.
13. David Banner
Rapper and political activist David Banner (real name Lavell Crump), graduated from Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA) with a Bachelor’s degree in business.
14. Rod Paige
7th U.S. Secretary of Education Roderick Paige graduated from Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) in 1955 with a Bachelor’s degree in physical education.
15. Esther Rolle
Renowned actress Esther Rolle, best known for her role as Florida Evans on the cultural phenomenon “Good Times,” graduated from Spelman College in 1942.
16. Dr. Regina Benjamin
Dr. Regina Benjamin, 18th Surgeon General of the United States and newly named chair of Xavier University (New Orleans, LA), graduated from Xavier University in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
17. Wanda Sykes
Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes graduated from Hampton University (Hampton, VA) in 1986 with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing.
18. Steve “Air II” McNair
Famed NFL Quarterback Steve “Air II” McNair became a legend at Alcorn State University (Lorman, MS) before earning his Bachelor’s degree in 1995.
19. Pam Oliver
Sportscaster Pam Oliver graduated from Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, FL) in 1984 with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.
20. Jacque Reid
Journalist Jacque Reid, regular contributor on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” and host of NBC 4 New York’s “New York Live,” graduated from Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA) in 1995 with a Bachelor’s degree in print journalism.
21. The Honorable Thurgood Marshall
The Honorable Thurgood Marshall, the 96th justice and first African-American justice on the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991, graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University in 1930 with a Bachelor’s degree in american literature and philosophy.
22. Honorable Mentions: Illustrious HBCU Dropouts
Legendary musician Cab Calloway studied law at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University in the late 1920s but left to pursue his music career. Media mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey dropped out of Tennessee State University (Nashville, TN) in 1976 to pursue her broadcasting career in Chicago — TSU awarded her an honorary degree in 1999. Famed “Roots” author Alex Haley attended Alcorn State University (Lorman, MS) in the 1930s before dropping out and joining the Coast Guard.