MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Journalist Ida B. Wells, Walter Payton, Martin Luther King Junior and Oprah Winfrey.
Not to mention award winning singers, Lionel Richie, Gladys Knight, Toni Braxton and now the Vice President, Kamala Harris.
All are alumni of a historically black college and university, where they learned to stand proud in their gifts and talents.
The legacies of those institutions remains a solid foundation for thousands of students.
I'm a proud 3rd generation HBCU alumn, so I've had a lifetime of love and understanding for historically black colleges and universities or HBCU's.
HBCU alumni make up America's Black middle and upper middle class and as some are just learning the network is invaluable have a look.
Founded in 1837, Cheyney State University would become the first of its kind, forging a path for the nation's 107 public and private HBCU's to follow says Dr. Cynthia Warrick.
"HBCU's were founded as institutions to educate these newly freed slaves," said Warrick.
Not only is she the President of Stillman College, Warrick is an HBCU alumnae of Howard University in Washington D.C.
Beyond the bands, homecomings and reunions that mean so much Warrick knows the history of HBCU's.
"Most of them were formed by the former slaves themselves when you start looking at those institutions and others were formed by the churches, so the African American Episcopal Church, the CME, Baptist all of the different churches formed HBCU's and that's how Stilllman got started.
Founded in 1876, Stillman Institute opened in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to train Black clergymen.
Other HBCU's would begin by educating teachers, farmers, technicians and other professionals.
"Slaves were not permitted to learn to read or write, so you needed institutions to teach them English and grammar and all of those basic things that the white population had been getting for over a hundred years," said Warrick.
THE mission of HBCU's has expanded through the years.
Each with illustrious histories and notable alumni.
The HBCU experience is unforgettable and familiar from one campus to the next.
As a high school student in Texas aspiring to be a pharmacist, instead of enrolling at the University of Houston's freshly integrated pharmacy school Warrick's choice was an HBCU...free from the pressure of racial prejudice.
"So when I left San Antonio, Texas and went to Howard I could be myself at my HBCU," said Warrick.
Howard allowed Warrick leadership positions in student pharmacy organizations and membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority along with opportunities to travel and meet other students and professionals from around the country.
Dr. Brenda Hardy is a Memphis OB/GYM who also found her way to Howard.
"Those bonds were formed then and they have lasted since then," said Hardy.
She's a legacy of HBCU's with family members who went to Stillman, Tougaloo, Jackson State, Tennessee State and others.
"The opportunity to work with experts, professors, the teachers who were intent on helping students who were intent on keeping that pipeline open, who were intent on making sure we took advantage of every opportunity before us," said Hardy.
Thirty percent of Black science and engineering graduates are from HBCU's
"The data shows that we're producing more STEM graduates. Well, what do those STEM graduates do? They go to graduate and professional schools to be doctors and PHD's," said Warrick.
Chris "DJ Superman" McNeil of Memphis' Hot 107.1 is another successful HBCU alumn who attests to the powerful bonds.
"They will nurture you and also guide you to help you finish," said McNeil.
McNeil almost gave up on what's become vibrant career meeting and working with well-known figures.
"I have to honestly say for real, for real, my friends who went to HBCU's, not just Lemoyne-Owen College, my heart, my love, but other institutions around the world. Don't do it. Keep going," said McNeil.
Like other HBCU alumn, McNeil enjoys a network of thousands and uses his platform to inspire others.
"So, that's what happens when you're empowered to be all you can be and that's what you get at an HBCU," says Warrick.