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HBCU Legends

Modern-Day HBCU Trailblazers You Should Know...but Probably Don't

Since Historically Black Colleges were first founded more than 140 years ago, alumni have included pioneers, leaders and legends in all areas.  We have learned of our 'Hidden Figures,' know about many of our civil rights leaders, US Senators and foreign heads of state.  Unfortunately, many people have mistakenly come to believe that the 'heyday' of HBCUs is gone- that alumni no longer make significant change or forge new paths.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  As Black History Month is celebrated in 2018, The Hundred-Seven is highlighting some recent HBCU pioneers-who have become the 'first' or made significant contributions in their fields.


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Omari Boyd

Tennesse State University

“Civil engineer by day… butt-kicker by night"  In July 2017, Boyd became the first American to medal in kickboxing at the World Games.  He is viewed by many as the one who can help kickboxing take off in the U.S.

Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Lane College

In 2006 Dalton became the first Black woman elected to a judgeship in Nashville.  This past year, she was appointed Criminal Court Judge in the 20th Judicial District making her the first African-American woman to sit on Tennessee's Criminal Court Division II Court.

James C. Dalton

North Carolina A&T State University

In 2016 James C. Dalton was named the US Army Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works. This is the first time an African American has held this position.  He was also the Corps of Engineers' first African-American senior civilian in Korean and Alaskan districts before being the only senior executive service level engineer.  

Julian Earls

Norfolk State University

Earls worked at NASA for more than 40 years accumulating many firsts along the way: NASA's first black section head, first black office chief, first black division chief and first black deputy director  In 2003, Dr. Earls  became NASA's second black center director.

Shannon Faulk

Clark Atlanta University

In 2017 Los Angeles civic leader, Shannon Faulk, became the 1st African-American to head the Board of Trustees of the Natural History Museum of Los Angelese County- first since the museum opened in 1913.  

Damien Hooper-Campbell

Morehouse College

Hooper-Campbell has served as the first diversity chief at both Uber and now, eBay.  Before joining Uber the Morehouse alum had been a former assistant director of minority initiatives at Harvard Business School a diversity strategist at Google and a Goldman Sachs VP focused on inclusion efforts.

Kristi Jones

North Carolina Central University

In December 2016 NCCU alumna Kristi Jones was appointed chief of staff for Governor-elect Roy Cooper. Jones is the first African-American woman to hold this position for a North Carolina governor. 

Sharma D. Lewis

Interdenominational Theological Seminary (Gammon Theological)

Lewis became the first African-American woman to be elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church in 2016.  Previously, she was the first woman to serve as district superintendent in the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District of the church.  She is the resident bishop of the Richmond episcopal area.

Chandra Minor

Alcorn State University/ Howard University School of Dentistry

A 2008 graduate of Alcorn, in 2015 Minor became the first (and only)  African-American woman to practice orthodontics in the state of Mississippi.  

Bettie Parker

Elizabeth City State University

Bet­tie Parker was already the first black woman ever elected to the Pasquotank County (NC) Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.  In November, she made his­tory again, be­com­ing the first woman ever elected mayor of El­iz­a­beth City.

Khallid Shabazz

Jarvis Christian College

In early 2017 Lt. Col Shabazz, one of less than a dozen Muslim chaplains in the US military, was called to become the Army's first division-level Muslim chaplain.  As a chaplain stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he is charged with supporting all religions and assisting with the spiritual needs of more than 14,000 mostly Christian soldiers.  

Isabel Wilkerson

Howard University

As the Chicago Bureau Chief for the New York Times, Wilkerson became the first African-American woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for journalism and the first African-American to do so for individual reporting.  Her 2010 book, The Warmth of Other Suns,  is the only book written by an African-American woman named by the New York Times as one of the  "Best English Nonfiction Books of All Time".  



Image credits:  Boyd: TSU newsroom,  Blackshear Dalton: Williamson Business, Dalton: US Army, Earls: Cleveland State University, Faulk: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Hooper-Campbell: Supplierty News, Jones: NCCU, Lewis: Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Minor: Vicksburg Orthodontics, Parker: ECSU Newsroom, Shabazz: Augusta Chronicle, Wilkershon: author's website.         

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Published February 2018

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