One of the greatest academic accomplishments a person can achieve is graduating from college, and that sentiment is even greater when the school of choice is one of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the nation.
From Alabama A&M and Allen University all the way to Winston-Salem State and Xavier University of Louisiana, you’d be surprised how many people you know and/or look up to that can proudly call themselves a HBCU alumni!
To honor the current graduates and give a special shout-out to our HBCU family, check out a handful of famous folk below who represent Historically Black Colleges and Universities in everything they do:
1. Lance Gross – HowardSource:Getty
One of the coolest cats in Hollywood, Lance Gross has clearly always been meant to be in front of the camera. He even graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theater degree during his time at Howard!
2. Samuel L. Jackson – Morehouse CollegeSource:(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Sam Jack’s college experience is proof that it’s never too late to change your vision during your four years at university. Prior to becoming an acting major, the D.C.-born all-star pursued a degree in marine biology. We could definitely see this guy as a master of the sea.
3. Anthony Anderson – Howard UniversitySource:TV One
Given the fact that Anthony Anderson is still at Howard — he’ll be graduating with his son in 2022 — we just want to wish this funnyman all the best in his studies this semester. Don’t study too hard now!
4. Oprah Winfrey – Tennessee State UniversitySource:Getty
The queen of all media got her academic start at Tennessee State University on a full scholarship after winning an oratory contest. Funny enough though, she didn’t get her degree until years later when she was a full-fledged TV star all because she forgot to turn in a final paper. Let that be a lesson in procrastination for you!
5. Kamala Harris – Howard UniversitySource:Jeff Johnson
Yes, an HBCU graduate is our current Vice President of America and quite possibly future President overall. Need more proof that HBCUs produce greatness at a rapid rate?
6. Ruben Studdard – Alabama A&MSource:Getty
You could argue that Ruben Studdard was destined to be a star in music, especially since while at Alabama A&M he joined a men’s music fraternity of America known as Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Shoutout to his Omicron Delta chapter!
7. Terrence J – North Carolina A&T UniversitySource:Getty
Terrence J had graduated from North Carolina A&T State University only two years prior to landing his breakout gig at BET’s 106 & Park. See, people — stay in school and you might become a star one day!
8. K. Michelle – FAMUSource:Getty
K. Michelle’s FAMU story is fab-u-lous: getting a music scholarship by yodeling at the audition, being crowned Freshman Attendant of the Homecoming Court, member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and graduating with honors are just some of her academic accolades.
9. Michael Strahan – Texas Southern UniversitySource:Women's Empowerment 2018
Michael Strahan’s college career went so well at Texas Southern University that all his on-field success and wins directly led to a legendary 15-year career as the New York Giants’ star defensive end.
10. Keshia Knight Pulliam – SpelmanSource:Getty
Even though Keshia Knight Pulliam really didn’t need to go to college due to being a star since her toddler years, the celebrated actress still made time to graduate from Spelman in 2001.
11. Kym Whitley – Fisk UniversitySource:Kym Whitley
Fisk University even sounds a bit funny, so it comes as no surprise that an eccentric comedian like Kym Whitley calls it her alma mater.
12. Jerry Rice – Mississippi Valley State UniversitySource:Getty
Jerry Rice first got his “World” nickname while at Mississippi Valley State University, so we’re sure he remembers that time fondly as a standout receiver. Three Super Bowl championships and being a six-time NFL receiving yards leader, amongst many other accolades, definitely came from the work he put in during his MVSU days.
13. Wale – Bowie State UniversitySource:Getty
Even though his time at Bowie State ended early due to academics, we still give Wale credit for making it to university level on football scholarships.
14. Toni Braxton – Bowie State UniversitySource:Victoria
Similar to Wale, Toni Braxton also attended Bowie State University. Also like Wale, Toni Braxton left early to pursue a career in music. Going to Bowie then bouncing to become a bonafide star proved to be a power move for them, but we say stay in school, people!
15. Rick Ross – Albany State UniversitySource:Getty
The bawse has brains too. Rick Ross gave Albany State University the best of his early years before stints as both a correction officer and then a rapper. Talk about an illustrious career!
16. Keenen Ivory Wayans – Tuskegee UniversitySource:Getty
Although he’s a member of the “I-dropped-out-before-graduating” crew, we still give Keenen cred for realizing his comedic prowess while at Tuskegee University that led to generations of familial wealth.
17. Gladys Knight – Shaw UniversitySource:Getty
Soul legend Gladys Knight proved that singing and school go hand-in-hand. After establishing a legendary career as a singer, Gladys Knight was granted an honorary doctorate from Shaw University in 1990.
18. Lionel Richie – Tuskegee UniversitySource:Getty
You may know him as the ultimate soul brother, but Lionel Richie initially entered college on a tennis scholarship to Tuskegee University. For what it’s worth he did create a musical trio called The Mystics, in addition to forming the Commodores while there as well.
19. Yolanda Adams – TSUSource:Getty
Yolanda’s Texas Southern story focused on Journalism when she graduated in 1984, but she actually ended up as an elementary school teacher before taking a destined turn into serving the Lord through gospel music. We’re sure TSU is very proud.
20. David Banner – Southern UniversitySource:Getty
David Banner is definitely a man about his business, which is pretty evident given his Bachelor’s degree in business that received from Southern University. His powerful work in politics and humanitarianism makes a lot more sense now.
21. Anika Noni Rose – FAMUSource:Getty
She was destined to be a Disney Princess — literally! During her time at Florida A&M, Anika Noni Rose flexed her acting chops so well that she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in theatre. The only time when being dramatic pays off.
22. Wanda Sykes – Hampton UniversitySource:Getty
If it’s true that only the happiest people come from Hampton, then Wanda Sykes could surely be the mascot for that notion! Although she got her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from there, the veteran comedian has been blessing the world with laugher ever since graduating.
23. Debbie Allen – Howard UniversitySource:National Kidney Foundation
The queen Debbie Allen’s laundry list of “aka’s” could go on for days — actress, director, dancer, producer….etc. etc. — and it’s probably due to all the work she was putting in as an undergrad at Howard. She graduated with a B.A. degree in classical Greek literature, speech, and theater, so it was alway a given that she’d be a multifaceted Renaissance Woman. Her sister, beloved iconic actress Phylicia Rashad, is also a Howard alumni.
24. Phylicia Rashad – Howard UniversitySource:Radio One Digital
Much like her equally brilliant sister Debbie Allen, the legendary actress Phylicia Rashad also got her grand start at Howard University. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree back in 1970, and has been a pillar in fine arts on multiple levels ever since.
25. Eva Marcille – Clark Atlanta UniversitySource:Nigel Degraff
Winning America’s Next Top Model might convince anyone to drop out of college, but at least Eva Marcille chose a prestigious uni like Clark Atlanta to get in those early studies. Strut on, sis!
26. Common – Florida A&M UniversitySource:instagram.com/akabundji/
Common has proved to be a bonafide businessman over the years, and part of that we believe is due to the two years he spent at Florida A&M University majoring in business administration. Skills for life!
27. Erykah Badu – Grambling State UniversitySource:Getty
Erykah Badu is one of many musicians that left school early to pursue music, but we’re inclined to give this Neo Soul goddess a pass given the trajectory of her career. Besides, what’s a degree when you’ve got an album like Baduizm credited to your name?
28. LaLa – Howard UniversitySource:Starz
LaLa studied communications during her brief stint at Howard University, and the experience helped lead her straight to MTV as one of the network’s fan-favorite VJs. A few great acting opportunities in film and television later turned her into a household name that we can’t get enough of. Thanks HU!
29. Diddy – Howard UniversitySource:Getty
The picture says it all! Even with everything that Diddy has accomplished, from music and film all the way to mastering The Name Game, the multimedia mogul still made time to make it back to Howard University. He was a business major before dropping out to spearhead the Shiny Suit Era of ’90s hip-hop, but in 2014 he was blessed with an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities. Can’t stop, won’t stop!
30. Spike Lee – Morehouse CollegeSource:Getty
We can’t think of anyone else that represents a Morehouse Man better than Spike Lee. His pro-Black approach to film, his unforgettable style — those collegiate-style glasses! — and not to mention his very first student film Last Hustle in Brooklyn are all results of his time at Morehouse.
31. Tom Joyner – TuskegeeSource:email@example.com
The man, the myth… the legend! Our love for Tom Joyner goes without saying because, well, he’s family! From being an OG member of Commodores with Lionel Ritchie (see above), to graduating with a degree in sociology, Joyner made the best of his time at Tuskegee. The fact this website even exists is a testament of that.