Howard or Morehouse: Battle of the Alumni

They fight for football supremacy at the Nation's Football Classic -- but which HBCU wins the prize for most notable alumni?

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  • Howard vs. Morehouse

    Both Howard and Morehouse boast some very notable alumni, professors and, well, dropouts. In honor of the Nation’s Football Classic game, we’ve created a list of famous and important people associated with the two schools, separated by categories such as civil rights, film, sports and politics. As the two schools duke it out on the field, you tell us which one wins the battle of the alumni.

    Captions by Joshua R. Weaver

  • Civil Rights: Howard

    Andrew Young: Before heading the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and knocking Maynard Jackson out of the Atlanta mayor’s office, Young earned a predentistry degree from Howard in 1951. A good friend of Martin Luther King Jr., he worked alongside King on many of the civil rights leader’s campaigns. By the 1970s Young’s political career was flourishing, but his more famous civil rights brother, King, left a more indelible legacy. Honorable mention: Kwame Ture, aka Stokely Carmichael.

  • Civil Rights: Morehouse

    Martin Luther King Jr.: Fifteen years before his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech, King graduated from Morehouse with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The prominent civil rights leader enrolled in the college at the budding age of 15 after skipping both the ninth and 12th grades. An American icon, he was recently honored with a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

  • Acting: Howard

    Phylicia Rashad: The woman best known for her role as Mrs. Clair Huxtable tops a lengthy list of Howard grads in Hollywood. Rashad graduated from the D.C. university before getting her start on Broadway and ultimately landing on the 1980s classic The Cosby Show. She returned to Howard to teach drama after snagging the best actress Tony in 2004 for her role in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Rashad’s younger sister, actor and choreographer Debbie Allen, also matriculated at the HBCU before jumping on the Fame boat.

  • Acting: Morehouse

    Samuel L. Jackson: After graduating from Morehouse in 1972, Jackson jumped into Hollywood, taking on several small roles before meeting director and fellow Morehouse alum Spike Lee. Jackson’s role as a crack-cocaine addict in Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever solidified Jackson’s place in tinseltown. Now a household name in Hollywood, Jackson gave his most notable performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, for which he received an Oscar nomination.

  • Filmmaking: Howard

    Ossie Davis: Davis dropped out of Howard in 1939 to pursue an acting career and became a household name in black Hollywood — and would remain so for 70 years. He became a prominent director in the 1970s and was at the helm of several films, including the influential blaxploitation film Cotton Comes to Harlem. Davis was also close friends with many civil rights figures, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

  • Filmmaking: Morehouse

    Spike Lee: While Ossie Davis paved the way for today’s black Hollywood, Lee brought black life of the ’80s and ’90s to the big screen in monumental fashion. Lee’s first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, rocked the box office only six years after he graduated from Morehouse and quickly propelled Lee into Hollywood’s big league. His 1989 blockbuster, Do the Right Thing, got Lee his first Academy Award nomination. Since graduating from Morehouse, he’s released more than 20 “Spike Lee Joints” and is easily considered one of Hollywood’s most iconic directors.

  • Science and Math: Howard

    David Blackwell: Although Blackwell was never a student at Howard, he taught at the university for more than 10 years in the 1940s and ’50s. Howard has produced a slew of prominent scientists and mathematicians; Blackwell has a bewildering and complex statistics theorem named after him, and like Pythagoras, he will forever grace the pages of math textbooks.

  • Science and Math: Morehouse

    Samuel M. Nabrit: Marine biologist Nabrit, who died in 2003, was the first African American appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A founding member of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, Nabrit returned to Morehouse, from which he had graduated in 1925, to teach after receiving a Ph.D. in biology from Brown University. He also served on the National Science Board under President Eisenhower.

  • Hip-Hop: Howard

    Sean “Diddy” Combs: Before teaming up with Biggie, Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and Diddy) attended Howard as an eager marketing student trying to make it into the A&R side of the hip-hop world. After securing a gig at ’90s record company Uptown in New York, Diddy quickly dropped out to pursue his burgeoning career as a talent director, helping R&B legends Jodeci and Mary J. Blige make it big. Diddy would soon make it big himself. After several reinventions, three Grammy awards and a number of Billboard hits, Diddy makes more money than anyone else in hip-hop.

  • Hip-Hop: Morehouse

    Keith “Guru” Elam: Guru, who died in 2010, graduated from Morehouse before founding the influential hip-hop duo Gang Starr, which released six albums over three decades. While working alongside Gang Starr cohort DJ Premier, Guru released a series of solo albums entitled Jazzmatazz. Guru is considered a legend in the hip-hop world, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences came under fire when it failed to mention him during the 2011 Grammy Awards’ “In Memoriam” tribute. 

  • Jazz: Howard

    Donald Byrd: A music teacher and trumpeter, Byrd served as the front man for the 1970s jazz-funk group the Blackbyrds, which included some of his students from his music-teaching tenure at Howard. The band is known for several hits, including its 1974 song “Walking in Rhythm,” which scored the group a Grammy nomination. The Blackbyrd’s “Rock Creek Park” has also left a mark on the hip-hop world, having been sampled by iconic artists from De La Soul to Eric B. & Rakim.

  • Jazz: Morehouse

    Babatunde Olatunji: While the Blackbyrds repped Howard and D.C. with their catchy singles, Nigerian-born musician and Morehouse alum Olatunji brought world music to the mainstream, mixing genres like jazz with music traditions from his native Nigeria. The Grammy Award-winning artist also worked alongside numerable prominent figures in jazz music, including John Coltrane. Olatunji joined fellow Morehouse alum Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the civil rights leader’s tour in the South and during the March on Washington.

  • Business: Howard

    Cathy Hughes: Hughes might not have graduated from Howard, but her stint at the university is definitely one for the history books. In 1979, while teaching at Howard’s School of Communications, Hughes founded Radio One, which today operates more than 70 radio stations throughout the country. With TV One, magazines and a variety of websites, Hughes’ Radio One has become a force in black media, and she’s the only African-American woman to run a public company.

  • Business: Morehouse

    Herman Cain: Long before his publicized rants, missteps and unabashed trash-talking, Cain was just another math student at Morehouse in the ’60s. The 2012 GOP candidate crunched numbers for the government in various positions before moving on up and becoming the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Cain was inducted into Morehouse’s board of trustees in 2002.

  • Journalism: Howard

    Colbert I. King: King graduated from Howard and worked for the government before beginning his notable career at the Washington Post in 1990. His work at the editorial desk would lead him to a 2003 Pulitzer Prize.

  • Journalism: Morehouse

    Michael DeMond Davis: Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of black service members in combat during the Vietnam War, Davis, who died in 2003, was the Atlanta Journal’s first black journalist. While at Morehouse, Davis worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young as part of the SCLC.

  • Poetry: Howard

    Paul Laurence Dunbar: One of black America’s first distinguished poets, Dunbar’s Lyrics of Lowly Life was published shortly before he moved to D.C. and began studying at Howard. His writing style is notable for its unique structure, florid depictions and, in some cases, use of a contrived African-American dialect. Dunbar’s style would influence many black writers.

  • Poetry: Morehouse

    Saul Williams: Poet and hip-hop artist Williams majored in acting and philosophy while attending Morehouse. His acting chops and unique mélange of poetry and hip-hop landed him the leading role in the critically acclaimed 1998 independent film Slam. A prominent figure in today’s spoken-word scene, Williams has performed with various poetry heavyweights, including beatnik pioneer Allen Ginsberg.

  • Sports: Howard

    David Oliver: Oliver began his journey toward the Olympic gold medal while attending Howard, where he won four conference track-and-field titles and broke the university’s all-time record for indoor track-and-field hurdles. In between jumping hurdles and running meters, Oliver also played wide receiver for the Bison. Only 29, he’s already managed to snag a bronze medal, at the 2008 Olympic Games.

  • Sports: Morehouse

    Edwin Moses: Morehouse’s Moses has broken various world records in track and field, winning more than 122 back-to-back competitions throughout the ’70s and ’80s, including two gold medals at the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games and a bronze medal at the 1988 Games. In between running 400-meter hurdles, Moses helped champion drug-testing reforms for track-and-field athletes. Few athletes can compete with Moses’ “track record.”

  • Law: Howard

    Thurgood Marshall: The first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall is easily one of Howard’s most iconic alumni. He was appointed by Lyndon Johnson in 1967, more than 30 years after graduating from Howard’s School of Law. Marshall went to the HBCU’s law school after being rejected from the University of Maryland School of Law under the college’s segregation policy. He was pivotal in litigating numerous high-profile civil rights cases as the NAACP’s chief counsel throughout the 1940s and ’50s.

  • Law: Morehouse

    George William Crockett Jr.: It’s hard to compete with Thurgood Marshall, but Crockett also worked closely to advocate for equality in the American law system and beyond. In 1937 he helped found the National Lawyers Guild, the first integrated law association, only six years after he graduated from Morehouse, and was the first black lawyer hired by the U.S. Department of Labor, under Roosevelt. Crockett was also involved in finding the bodies of three civil rights activists killed in Mississippi during the 1964 Freedom Summer, which inspired the acclaimed 1988 movie Mississippi Burning.

  • City Government: Howard

    David Dinkins: The first and only African-American mayor of New York City, Howard alum Dinkins took the city’s highest office amid upheaval after racial strife and supposed corruption in the city government. Dinkins, who lost his post to Rudy Giuliani in 1993, helped mend the city’s ongoing racial issues while spurring reductions in the notorious crime rates of the late 1980s.

  • City Government: Morehouse

    Maynard Jackson: Morehouse graduate Jackson worked to improve race relations and enhance inner-city neighborhoods throughout his three terms as the first black mayor of Atlanta. During Jackson’s tenure, Atlanta’s airport was renovated, the city’s 48-mile rail line began construction, Atlanta was awarded the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and various highway projects that would have destroyed inner-city Atlanta neighborhoods were halted.

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