U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall attended Lincoln University and later Howard University School of Law. Early in his career as an attorney, prior to being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall was best known for his success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a decision that desegregated public schools in America. He became the first African American named to the U.S. Supreme Court serving from October 1967 to October 1991.
George Washington Carver
Agriculturalist, Inventor and Educator
George Washington Carver attended Tuskegee Institute. Some of Carver’s noted accomplishments came from his research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts, soy beans and sweet potatoes. He found many uses for these crops and promoted hundreds of products made from peanuts including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline and nitroglycerin. He received numerous awards and honors for his work and was recognized for his many talents and achievements. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”.
John W. Thompson
Chairman of Microsoft Corporation
John Thompson attended Florida A&M University. Thompson, a veteran Silicon Valley executive, is one of the few high-ranking African Americans in the technology sphere. In 2014, Thompson was appointed Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, an American multinational corporation that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software and services; making him the first African American to chair the board.
Physicist, Space Scientist and Mathematician
Katherine Johnson attend West Virginia State University. Johnson contributed to America's aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA. Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, she calculated the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon. Johnson co-authored 26 scientific papers and her social impact as a pioneer in space science and computing may be seen both from the honors she has received and the number of times her story is presented as a role model. Since 1979 (before she retired from NASA), Johnson's biography has had an honored place in lists of African-Americans in Science and Technology.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
Jeh Johnson attended Morehouse College. He is an American civil, criminal trial lawyer, and the current United States Secretary of Homeland Security. Prior to joining Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Johnson served as General Counsel for the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012, where he was part of the senior management team and led the more than 10,000 military and civilian lawyers across the Department. In 2013 he was appointed by President Obama as Secretary of Homeland Security and in the fourth person to hold the office.
Associate Deputy Administrator at NASA
Charles Scales attended Alabama A&M University. He became NASA's Associate Deputy Administrator, in April 2007. Previously, he was the Associate Administrator for the Office of Institutions and Management. In this position, he managed operational and mission support activities across the agency. He also ensured the agency work force, infrastructure and facility capabilities are working together in support of NASA's long-range needs.
Media Proprietor, Actress, Producer, Talk Show Host and Philanthropist
Oprah Winfrey attended Tennessee State University. In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, where she hosted a hit television chat show, People Are Talking. Afterward, she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show. She later became the host of her own, wildly popular program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons, from 1986 to 2011. That same year, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Pulitzer Prize and Noble Prize-winning Author and Professor
Toni Morrison attended Howard University. Morrison's novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved and the Nobel Prize in 1993. On May 29, 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist and Professor
Leon Dash attended Howard University. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist with extensive experience in domestic and international reporting. Dash joined the Washington Post in 1965 and later won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for his series "Rosa Lee's Story," on a family trapped in the urban underclass that became the basis for his award-winning book, Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America. He also earned an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for a documentary series and, in 1999, New York University's journalism department selected the "Rose Lee's Story" series as one of the best 100 works in 20th century American journalism.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. a.k.a. Common
Academy Award-winning Recording Artist, Author, Actor and Social Activist
Lonnie Lynn, Jr., better known by his stage name Common, attended Florida A&M University. Common debuted in 1992 with the album, "Can I Borrow a Dollar?", and maintained a significant underground following into the late 1990's. In 2011, Common launched Think Common Entertainment, his own record label imprint. Common is also part of the "Knowing Is Beautiful" movement, which supports HIV/AIDS awareness. He is the founder of the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to empower underprivileged youth to be strong citizens and citizens of the world. The foundation includes programs dedicated to leadership development & empowerment, educational development, creative expression, as well as a book club.
There are more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States today. These institutions of higher learning, whose principal mission is to educate African Americans, have evolved since their beginning in 1837 when their primary responsibility was to educate freed slaves to read and write. At the dawn of the 21st century, along with graduate and post-graduate degrees, HBCUs offer African American students a place to earn a sense of identity, heritage and community.
Over 100 years later, HBCUs still stand. Their character and missions will continue to change and evolve. HBCUs hold a unique legacy to the specific needs of African American minds and continue to demonstrate the most effective ability to graduate African American students poised to be competitive in the corporate, research, academic, arts, government and military arenas. HBCUs were created to support African American students but these institutions of higher learning are no longer exclusive to African American students. Today, HBCUs have a significant percentage of non-African American student populations that consist of Asian, Hispanic, International and White American students. In the future we will continue to see the most valuable assets that these institutions have to offer; the graduates that they produce. That is what makes America’s HBCUs indispensable.
Many notable African Americans are alumni of HBCUs. They have helped to contribute to the arts, culture, economic, science and social change in America. During this year’s Black History Month, we would like to recognize these influential men and women who attended some of America’s prominent HBCUs.
For more on some of these HBCU alumni, click here.