Historically Black Colleges are great institutions that have served as safe havens for our favorite actors, singers, and moguls (looking at you, Puff Daddy) where they have received the inspiration and education to dominate the stage, and our hearts. While everyone loves a good story about a celebrity and their HBCU experience, many of America’s politicians were also stand-up men and women at colleges and universities such as Spelman, Howard, Tuskegee, and many more.
Here are just some notable political alumni from HBCUs, what they’ve accomplished, and more.
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Rev. Jesse Jackson
Rev. Jackson’s journey to a life involving activism and politics started during his time at popular HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University. Jackson participated in marches with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and created Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition, organizations that fought for the betterment of lower class African-Americans and beyond. In 1983, he became the second African-American to run for president. Today, Jackson continues to advocate for African-Americans who have faced prejudice and racism at the hands of law enforcement. [Rainbow PUSH]
The late Thurgood Marshall made history as America’s first African-American justice in the U.S. Supreme Court. He obtained his degrees at Lincoln University and Howard University‘s School of Law. From there, he continued to develop his love of justice and helped seek equality for those who were heavily discriminated against in the 1930s. He later founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and fought popular discrimination cases.
In 1954, Marshall went on to win the case that would change the development of the country–Brown v. Board of Education. After serving on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991, Marshall was awarded both the Freedom and Liberty medals. After his death in 1993, former President Bill Clinton awarded Marshall with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Norma Holloway Johnson
The late Judge Johnson attended the University of the District of Columbia and Georgetown University. Widely known for her no-nonsense style, she held the position of chief judge of the United States District Court from 1980 to 2001. She was the first African-American to hold the title in Washington D.C. and the only woman to serve as a judge. One of her biggest rulings centered around Bill Clinton’s highly publicized affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky. Judge Johnson was responsible for opening up the investigation after Clinton’s lawyers tried to prevent the questioning of his aides. As history tells it, the investigation led to Clinton’s impeachment and overall acquittal of perjury and obstruction of justice charges. [NY Times]
Dr. Torian has multiple degrees from Howard University, Virginia Union University, and Winston-Salem State University, respectively. Serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Dr. Torian also serves as a pastor to his community. [Luke Torian]
Clark made history as the second Black woman ever to be elected to Philadelphia City Council, but before she helped make a difference in the world of education, she attended West Virginia State College and continued her studies at Drexel University, before obtaining a law degree from Temple University. Clark was seen as a staple in Philadelphia, working on improving poorly funded schools in lower class neighborhoods. Clark passed away in 2013 and is survived by her two children, Mark and Adrienne, and four grandchildren. Her husband, Leroy W. Clark, passed away in 2007. [6ABC]
The former Democratic senator was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois and filled the position after Barack Obama was elected President in 2009. With degrees from Howard University of Law and Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, Burris fought to obtain gun bans in Chicago. Furthermore, the lawyer has always fought against segregation. In the 1950s, Burris participated in a drive to integrate a local community pool. At just 15 years old, Burris was the first African-American to use the facility.
Tanya Walton Pratt
Judge Pratt attended Spelman College and obtained her law degree from Howard University. After working for an associate attorney for several years, she was nominated by President Obama to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Winning 95-0, she was elected Indiana’s first African-American federal judge.
She recently made headlines in the case of Jared Fogle, the former Subway spokesman who was accused of molesting middle school children. Judge Pratt sentenced Fogle to 15 years and six months in federal prison on charges of child pornography and having sex with a minor. Some of her stern and quick replies to Fogle and his defense elicited viral attention.
What many don’t know is that Judge Pratt is a huge advocate for children. She was given the community “Trailblazer” award for her work with adoptees and for increasing awareness about adoptions in the U.S. Judge Pratt also told reporters she would like to see more rehabilitation, as well as educational opportunities for prisoners. [Heavy]
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby attended Tuskegee University and decided to practice law after the murder of her 17-year-old cousin, who was mistakenly identified as a drug dealer by another teenager. Even with the majority of her family serving on the police force, Mosby still made the decision to charge six police officers for the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. The charges range from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, to depraved heart murder. Mosby helped change the conversation surrounding those who die in police custody and intensified the repercussions on-duty police officers can face.
The former presidential candidate and businessman holds degrees from Morehouse College and Purdue University. His longstanding political career took off in the late nineties during his position as an economic advisor for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. After making a failed bill for Senate in 2004, he re-emerged as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011. One of the most popular candidates from the party, Cain once polled just ahead of then-senator Barack Obama. But his 9-9-9 plan was widely criticized, and after several controversies, he bowed out of the race. Today, he hosts “The Herman Cain” radio show and shares his thoughts about the current presidential race via Twitter. [Bio]
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty