Ever since Kamala Harris, a proud Howard University graduate, was sworn in as our nation’s next Vice President, the world has been buzzing about all things HBCU. But we’ve long known about the rich legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Everyone else is just catching up. (Yes, that was a flex.)
There are currently 107 HBCUs and the oldest, Pennsylvania’s Cheyney University, was founded back in 1837. These illustrious institutions were built on the backs of our ancestors, many of whom worked tirelessly to create and maintain those campuses. Most of these schools have survived the abolition of slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and more. That’s right, HBCUs are much more than a lit homecoming weekend (we see you A&T also known as the #GHOE) or a mention in your favorite rapper’s quotable lyrics (from Biggie to Drake to J. Cole). They are an important part of American history and should be celebrated as such.
Enter ESSENCE’s very own CEO Caroline Wanga, who graduated from Texas College, an HBCU founded in Tyler, Texas in 1894. (Also the proud 2005 alum served as TC’s homecoming queen.). On May 15, she returns as their commencement speaker and will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
As if further proof was needed to put respect on the name of all HBCUs, their grads have been killing it in every industry you can imagine since the 1800s! From politics, to entertainment to STEM careers, there is an example of the #BlackExcellence nurtured at these distinct institutions of higher learning in a vast number of fields. While there are thousands to explore, here’s a look at 15 notable HBCU graduates.
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