Erykah Badu speaks onstage during BET's Social Awards 2018; Samuel L. Jackson attends The 76th Annual Tony Awards; Rapper 2 Chainz performs at Streetz Fest 2019 at Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood
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Bet You Didn't Know These A-List Celebrities Attended a Historically Black College or University!

These well known figures — spanning entertainment, music, literature and more — got their start at a historically Black college or university.


Nov. 1 2023, Published 1:27 p.m. ET

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Believe it or not, some of the biggest names in the game got their start at a historically Black college or university. From renowned authors to hip-hop heavyweights and silver-screen stars, the list is impressive (to say the least.)

Below are 10 household names who attended or earned a degree at some of the nation's most well-known HBCUs!

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2 Chainz

2 Chainz holds up a peace sign and wears a yellow leather Avirex jacket and diamond ring.
Source: Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Alma Mater: Alabama State University

Graduated: 2000

Did you know that prior to gracing the mic, 2 Chainz (born Tauheed Epps) was a baller? In fact, Tity Boi attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship and played for the Hornets Basketball Team. He later did a stint at Virginia State University before returning to Alabama State, where he scored a bachelor’s degree in psychology.


Diddy holds up a VMA award on the red carpet and wears a red linen jacket and shirt and a large silver Bad Boy chain.
Source: John Nacion/WireImage via Getty Images

Alma Mater: Howard University

Graduated: Dropped out in 1990

If there were a breakdown of ultra-super-successful college dropouts, Diddy would sit atop the list. After only two years at Howard, the former business major left the university and went on to become a staple in the music and fashion industry.

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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey smiles of the red carpet of Essence Festival's Get lifted event in striped button down and white linen pants.
Source: Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE

Alma Mater: Tennessee State University

Graduated: 1986

In the early 80s — long before her claim to fame as America's favorite talk show host — Oprah studied communications at TSU. She went on to make history as the first Black female news reporter at WLAC-TV in Nashville, Tenn. She was just 19 years old.

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David Banner

David Banner smiles and wears a black suit and black-brimmed glasses at a National Urban League event.
Source: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for National Urban League

Alma Mater: Southern University

Graduated: 1997

Lavell "David Banner" Crump attended not one but two universities to pursue his business aspirations.

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After earning a degree in business from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., Banner followed his dreams to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. While he had hopes of completing a master’s program in education, he left the school to chase his love for music full-time.

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Will Packer

Will Packer wears a black and white tuxedo at Vanity Fair's Oscar party.
Source: Cindy Ord/VF23/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Alma Mater: Florida A&M University

Graduated: 1996

Best known for films like No Good Deed, Ride Along, and Think Like a Man, famed film producer Will Packer studied STEM at Florida A&M. He earned a degree in the sciences before the career pivot that made him a household name.

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Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison wears a flore shawl wrap and black linen jacket and dress and attends a panel.
Source: Daniel Boczarski/FilmMagic

Alma Mater: Howard University

Graduated: 1955

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, responsible for works like The Bluest Eye and Beloved, attended Howard University and earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1953.

She later pursued a master’s in 1955. Today, her legacy as an uncut voice of the Black experience lives on.

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Taraji P. Henson

Tarahi P. Henson wears a satin dress and maroon lipstick on the red carpet of CinemaCon.
Source: Photo by Greg Doherty/WireImage

Alma Mater: Howard University

Graduated: 1995

Prior to starring in blockbusters like Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Hidden Figures, Washington D.C.-born star Taraji P. Henson nabbed a theater arts degree from Howard, affectionately known as the Mecca. But it wasn't without hard work.

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When she wasn't hitting the books, Henson worked mornings as a secretary at the Pentagon. During her downtime flexed her performance skills as a singing waitress on a cruise ship called the Spirit of Washington.

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Spike Lee

Spike Lee wears a black Knicks Nike tracksuit and a black beret and holds microphone and speaks.
Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Alma Mater: Morehouse College

Graduated: 1979

Brooklyn native Spike Lee discovered his passion for storytelling at Morehouse. It's there that he reportedly created his first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. He ultimately graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.

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Samuel L. Jackson

Source: Henry Herrmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Alma Mater: Morehouse College

Graduated: Expelled 1969

Sam Jackson (briefly) pursued a career in Marine Biology at Atlanta's Morehouse College as a young adult.

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However, in 1969, the Snakes on a Plane star was expelled from the historically Black college for locking board members in a building for 48 hours in protest of the school’s curriculum and governance.

Needless to say, the incident didn't impact his trajectory. Today, he has over 205 film credits to his name that span over five decades.

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Erykah Badu

Source: Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Alma Mater: Grambling State University

Graduated: Dropped out in 1993

Much like Sean Combs, Erykah Badu found immense success in the music industry after dropping out of college. She previously attended Grambling University in Monroe, La., which was founded in 1901.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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