Harvard University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and over the years, it has produced a wide range of successful graduates. 

Among these graduates are many prominent Black figures who have gone on to make significant contributions to society. 

In this blog, we will take a closer look at some of the most famous Black Harvard graduates.

1. Barack Obama

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. While at Harvard, he was the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review, one of the most prestigious legal journals in the country. 

Former US President, Barack Obama

After graduating, Obama worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago before entering politics. 

He served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004 and was elected to the US Senate in 2004. In 2008, he was elected the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first Black person to hold office.

Obama’s presidency was marked by his efforts to improve healthcare, address climate change, and promote equal rights for all Americans.

2. W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois was a prominent civil rights activist, historian, and sociologist who was the first Black person to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard College in 1890 and went on to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895.

Du Bois was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and played a key role in the development of the concept of “double consciousness,” which describes the experience of being both Black and American.

Du Bois went on to become one of the most influential figures in the fight for Black equality, and his work helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

3. Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist, author, and educator who graduated from Harvard College in 1997 with a degree in history. 

Coates is perhaps best known for his work as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he has written extensively about race, politics, and culture in America. His work has been published in The New York Times, and other publications as well.

He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book “Between the World and Me.”

4. Cornel West

Cornel West is a prominent philosopher, author, and civil rights activist who graduated from Harvard College in 1973 with a degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. 

He went on to earn his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1980.

West has written over 20 books on topics ranging from race and democracy to religion and culture, and he has been a prominent voice in the fight for social justice and equality.

5. Angela Davis

Angela Davis is a political activist, scholar, and author who graduated from Harvard in 1963 with a degree in French literature.

Angela Davis

Davis has been a prominent figure in the Black Power and feminist movements, and her work has focused on issues of race, gender, and inequality. She is best known for her work on prison abolition and has been a vocal advocate for the rights of incarcerated people.

6. Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a historian, scholar, and author who graduated from Harvard College in 1973 with a degree in English. 

Gates has written extensively about African American history and culture and has hosted several PBS television series on the subject, including “African American Lives” and “Finding Your Roots.” 

He is also the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard, where he teaches courses on African American studies and literature.

7. Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston was a lawyer, civil rights activist, and educator who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1923.

Houston was a key figure in the fight against segregation and played a leading role in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education. 

He was also instrumental in the development of the legal strategy used by the NAACP to challenge segregation in the courts.

8. Lani Guinier

Lani Guinier is a civil rights lawyer and legal scholar who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1974. She was the first Black woman to become a tenured professor at Harvard Law School.

Lani Guinier

Lani Guinier has worked on voting rights and educational equity. She is the author of several books, including “The Tyranny of the Majority” and “Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice.”

9. Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman is a civil rights activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1963. She has worked on issues such as child welfare, education, and healthcare.

Throughout her career, Edelman has received numerous awards and honors for her work on behalf of children and civil rights. 

In 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Bill Clinton.

She has also been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism.

10. Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is a poet, playwright, and professor who received her degree from Harvard in 1993. She is known for her work on race and identity and has won many awards for her writing.

Claudia Rankine

She is the author of several books, including “Citizen: An American Lyric” and “Just Us: An American Conversation.”

In conclusion, these are just a few of the many famous Black Harvard graduates who have made significant contributions to society. 

Their work and accomplishments serve as a testament to the power of education and the important role that institutions like Harvard can play in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

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