16 celebrities you probably didn't know attended historically black colleges and universities

Historically black colleges and universities, aka HBCUs, were established long before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on the premise of providing higher education for African-Americans. After Congress passed the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states with nonintegrated land-grant colleges were required by law to create land-grant schools for black students. In addition to training in agricultural and mechanical arts, classes on black history were also a curriculum priority.

From Tennessee State University and Tuskegee University to Howard University and Morehouse College, HBCU alumni include prominent figures and A-list stars such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Toni MorrisonOprah Winfrey, Lionel Richie, and Taraji P. Henson. In the spirit of homecoming season, scroll on to learn which other celebrities attended HBCUs.

Yahoo Lifestyle is excited to highlight the rich legacy of homecoming style at historically black colleges and universities! And we want to hear from current students and alumni! Here’s how you can participate: share your photos and videos on Twitter and Instagram with the hash tag #HBCUstyle for a chance to be featured on our site. 

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Famous HBCU alumni

Did you know these prominent figures and celebs attended HBCUs? (Photos: Getty Images; Art by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey attended Tennessee State University on a full scholarship, and later went on to become one of the most recognized and best-paid personalities in American media and film. (Photo: Getty Images)

Taraji P. Henson

Henson attended two HBCUs North Carolina A&T University, where she studied electrical engineering, and later Howard University, where she studied theatre. Today, she is one of Hollywood’s elite actresses and has landed starring roles in movies such Hustle & Flow and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as the television series Empire. (Photo: Getty Images)

Terrence J.

Sought-after TV host, actor, and model, Terrence J. graduated from North Carolina A&T University in 2004. In 2015, he donated $100,000 to the school’s journalism and mass communications program. (Photo: Getty Images)

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was a leading figure in the civil rights struggle in the 1960s, until he was assassinated in 1968, and his legacy lives on today. He attended Morehouse College. (Photo: Getty Images)

Erykah Badu

The “Tyrone” singer attended Grambling University. She once said in an interview that she had wanted to attend Howard University, but that her grades weren’t good enough. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spike Lee

Lee is an alumnus of Morehouse College, who graduated with a degree in mass communications. In 1988, he wrote, filmed, and directed the classic film, School Daze, based on the story of a young man trying to pledge a popular fraternity at an HBCU. (Photo: Getty Images)

Toni Braxton

Braxton attended Bowie State University and went on to become a seven-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer. (Photo: Getty Images)

La La Anthony

Anthony attended Howard University and is to be the school’s grand marshal at its 2017 homecoming parade. (Photo: Getty Images)

Booker T. Washington

An educator and well-known businessman in the African-American community, and adviser to many American presidents, Washington is one of the most celebrated of the alumni of Hampton University. He went on to found another HBCU, Tuskegee University. (Photo: Wiki)

Phylicia Rashad

Best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Rashad attended Howard University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1970. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gladys Knight

The Grammy-Award-winning singer graduated from Shaw University, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also owns a chain of chicken and waffle restaurants in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lionel Richie

The “All Night Long” singer is from Tuskegee, Ala., and attended Tuskegee University. Richie delivered the commencement address at his alma mater in 2010. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sean “Diddy” Combs

Combs did a brief stint at Howard University, leaving after his sophomore year to pursue music and business endeavors. In 2014, the university bestowed on him an honorary degree in humanities. Combs also delivered the school’s 146th commencement address. (Photo: Getty Images)

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a notable American novelist who attended Howard University. Her best-known works include Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon. (Photo: Getty Images)

Michael Strahan

A former New York Giants defensive end, Strahan attended Texas Southern University. He became an NFL prospect during his matriculation at TSU, and now co-hosts syndicated talk shows such as Live! With Kelly and Michael, as well as Fox NFL Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)

Keshia Knight Pulliam

Many remember her as Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and now Pulliam is all grown-up. She is an alumni of Spelman College and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Photo: Getty Images)

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