Bison For Life: 10 Famous Ladies Who Went To Howard University

August 23, 2012  |  
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If you’ve been living under a rock for like…forever, Howard University is the historical black college in Washington, D.C. that has been one of the leaders for turning students into future leaders of tomorrow. The school also been the alma mater to many high profile black celebrities. Here are 10 ladies who enrolled at HU and either graduated (some with honors) or made a big impact during their time there.

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Taraji P. Henson
The Academy Award nominated actress hustled to make her way through college and support herself. She was first enrolled at North Carolina University Agricultural and Technical. She then transferred to Howard and majored in theater. Henson had a job as a secretary at the Pentagon and was a singer and dancer on a cruise ship to help cover the costs of her education. She graduated in 1995 with a degree in theater arts.

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Phylicia Rashād
The Tony Award winning actress was the first Allen sister to attend Howard U. She walked with magna cum laude honors in 1970, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She has given back to her school over the years as a teacher, as part of Campus Pals, and delivered the keynote address in 2009. She also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities at Howard’s 142nd Charter Day Convocation.

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Debbie Allen
Debbie was one of the creative forces behind “A Different World,” which dealt with the happenings at a historically black college. She drew from her experience as a student at Howard of all places. She graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in classical Greek literature, speech and theater. She was later awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater.

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Toni Morrison
Toni is more than just a literary legend, but she is also Howard lore. Howard is where the author, formerly known as, Chloe Ardelia Wofford renamed herself ‘Toni,’ but didn’t find the atmosphere fulfilling to her. She graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in English but left for Cornell University to achieve her master’s degree. Toni returned to Howard and taught English, became an AKA and began to write her short stories. The rest is the enshrined legacy she created for herself through her many classic works.

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Zora Neale Hurston
The famed author who published such classics as Their Eyes Were Watching God began her undergraduate studies in 1918. She was one of the first members of Zeta Phi Beta while at HU and co-founded the university’s student paper, The Hilltop. She earned her associate’s degree in 1920 and wrote John Redding Goes to Sea the following year, which qualified her to become a member of writer and educator Alain Locke’s literary club known as The Stylus. She left in 1924.

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Roberta Flack
The “Killing Me Softly” songstress always knew what she wanted to do with her life as she once confessed to playing the piano all day long as music was one of the cores of her life. She took formal lessons at 13 and was so great that she was awarded a scholarship to Howard at the tender age of 15. She was one of the youngest people to attend the school. In 1958, at the age of 19, she graduated with a B.A. in music education. Flack is a Delta and was even made an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma at Howard for her work in music education.

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Ananda Lewis
The TV personality began to sow her seeds of social activism at Howard. She has spoken about volunteering for programs that helped teenagers for the Youth Leadership and Development Institute as a trainer in personal power and other considerations such as parenting. She graduated in 1995 Cum Laude with a B.A. in History.

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Wendy Raquel Robinson
The versatile actress who has brought such characters as Tasha Mack and Regina Grier to life has Howard to thank as early training through the school helped to cultivate her talents. She honed her skills at the HBCU but has described her time there as a culture shock.  Despite all that, in her words, she was “driven on a dream.” She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

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Crystal Waters
The singer and songwriter and daughter of famed jazz musician Junior Waters actually studied business and science, but music wise, her creativity lessened as she found less time for her passion while in school. Waters earned a degree in 1985 and pursued what was in her heart, which was music, of course. She released the top 10 hit “Gypsy Woman” in 1991.

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La La Anthony
Carmelo’s other half and the former veejay for “Total Request Live” has often talked of getting her first big break in radio alongside Ludacris. What many don’t know is that after she left ‘Future Flavas,’ she moved to D.C. and attended Howard to make more moves to further her career. She studied communications and worked as a disc jockey at WHUR, the campus radio station.

Stephanie Guerilus is a multimedia journalist and author. Follow her @qsteph

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