HBCU History: 10 Black College Legends You Should Know

Langston University alumna Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman became the first African-American woman in America to stage a public flight; and hold an international pilot license.
Langston University alumna Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman became the first African-American woman in America to stage a public flight; and hold an international pilot license.

HBCU history is grounded in the proud past created by many African American men and women who have made significant contributions to American society. Whether it be activists, freedom fighters, artists, educators, authors, athletes, or anyone else, their legendary contributions are something the entire community can be proud of today. Thus, during black history month, we bring you a list of 10 black college legends worth remembering.

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod BethuneBorn in 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and life rights leader who studied at Barber-Scotia College. She founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 and Bethune-Cookman College in 1904.

George Washington Carver

George Washington CarverBorn into slavery in Diamond, Missouri either in 1861 or 1864, George Washington Carver was the second black man to appear on the United States currency. The exact date and birth year are unknown. He went onto become one of the most well-known botanist and inventor of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. Carver developed over 100 products using peanut including plastics, dyes, and gasoline.

Bessie Coleman

Elizabeth "Bessie" ColemanElizabeth “Bessie” Coleman became the first black American woman to stage a public flight in America. She specialized in parachuting and stunt flying and remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation. Coleman is graduate of Langston College.

W.E.B. Dubois

William Edward Burghardt Du BoisThis Fisk University alumnus was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, U.S, W.E. B. Du Bois, (William Edward Burghardt Du Bois) was a sociologist, historian, Pan-Africanist, author, editor, and civil right activist. He was one of the most important black protest leaders in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Du Bois wrote extensively and became the first Black American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Althea Gibson

Althea GibsonBorn in South Carolina, Althea Gibson was a tennis player and a professional golfer. She was the first African American player to win the French (1956), singles and doubles Wimbledon (1957–58), and U.S. Open (1957–58) singles championships. She also became the first black player to compete on the women’s professional golf tour. Gibson is a graduate of Florida A&M University.

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson Not just an influential and notable novelist, songwriter, and poet James Weldon Johnson was one of the leading figures during Harlem Renaissance. Johnson is best remembered for his important role in combating racism through his position in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP. After graduating from Atlanta University, he worked as a principal in a grammar school, founded a newspaper-The Daily American, and became the first African American to pass the Florida Bar.

Rosa Parks

Rosa ParksCivil rights activist, Rosa Parks was born in 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her refusal to give up her bus seat in the colored section to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama led to a city-wide boycott. As a consequence, law of racial segregation on public buses was lifted by the city of Montgomery. She also received national recognition, including the NAACP’s highest award. Parks is a graduate of Alabama State University.

Asa Philip RandolphA. Phillip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University, Philip Randolph was one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th century. From 1917 until his last breadth on May 16, 1979, Randolph worked as a labor organizer, a civil rights leader and a journalist. In 1963, Randolph led the March on Washington Movement.

Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph

Born in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, Wilma Rudolph was an African American athlete, an Olympic champion and a graduate of Tennessee State University. She competed in two Olympic Games in 1956 and in 1960 and later worked as a teacher and track coach. In 1960, Rudolph became the first black woman to win three gold medals at Summer Olympics in Rome.

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington Born as a slave on a small farm in the Virginia backcountry, Booker T. Washington is a graduate of Hampton University and was one of the most famous black men in America. Apart from being considered as one of the most influential black educator, he was an orator, author, and advisor to the president of the United States. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama now known as the Tuskegee University, which grew immensely and focused on preparing African Americans in agricultural pursuits.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: