By Abbey Crain
Reckon staff writer

The 2020 election gave HBCU graduates a chance to shine, bringing to the forefront the fruits of historically Black institutions. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a Howard University graduate, became the first woman and first Black woman elected vice president. Stacey Abrams, a Spelman College alumnae was heralded for her efforts in helping Democrats win Georgia for the first time in a generation and Cori Bush, a Harris–Stowe State University grad defeated an incumbent congressman from a politically powerful Missouri family to become the state’s first Black woman in Congress.

HBCU grads have long been leaders in our communities, but these 10 HBCU grads are making big strides in shaping the South.

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta
Florida A&M

Keisha Lance Bottoms is the mayor of Atlanta. Elected in 2017, she was reportedly on a list of possible running mates for Joe Biden. Since Biden’s win, her name has come up as a possible cabinet secretary in the new administration. 

2 Chainz, rapper and entrepreneur
Alabama State University/Virginia State University 

Tauheed Epps, better known professionally as 2 Chainz, attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship and later transferred to Virginia State University, where he graduated. He is a four-time Grammy nominee and won the 2017 Grammy for best rap performance for “No Problem,” featuring Chance the Rapper. An entrepreneur with several businesses, he also owns a minority stake in the Atlanta Hawks minor league basketball team.

Randall Woodfin, Birmingham Mayor
Morehouse College

Randall Woodfin is an attorney and current mayor of Birmingham, Ala. In summer 2020, Woodfin made national headlines when he ordered the removal of a Confederate monument in downtown Birmingham. Later, Woodfin was part of a group of mayors that addressed the Democratic National Convention.

Chokwe A. Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Miss.
Tuskegee and Texas Southern Law 

Chokwe Lumumba is an attorney, activist and mayor of Jackson, Miss. Lumumba was elected in 2017 and has cited Fannie Lou Hamer as his inspiration to unite poor people and build resources in local communities. In 2018, he signed an executive order prohibiting the Jackson Police Department from using mugshots of suspects in officer-involved shootings.

Aisha Nyandoro, Springboard to Opportunities CEO and founder of Magnolia Moms
Tennessee State

Aisha Nyandoro is the CEO of Springboard To Opportunities in Mississippi, which supports low-income housing residents. She also started the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which provides African-American moms in Jackson, Miss., $1,000 in cash each month for a year — no strings attached.

Trey Baker, Joe Biden campaign African American outreach director
Tougaloo College

Trey Baker worked as Grenada, Miss., city manager before being tapped as the national director of African American engagement for the Joe Biden campaign, where he worked to connect the now-president-elect to Black voters.

Hadiyah-Nicole Green, cancer researcher
Alabama A&M

Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green is a physicist and an assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine. In 2020, she won acclaim as the first person to cure cancer in mice using laser-activated nanoparticles.

Steven Reed, Montgomery Mayor
Morehouse College

Steven Reed is the first Black mayor of Montgomery, Ala. In 2015, he was the first probate judge in Alabama to issue same-sex marriage licenses, defying then an order by then-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Tameika Isaac Devine, City Councilwoman
Hampton University

Tameika Isaac Devine is a city councilwoman in Columbia, S.C., and the founder of the Possibilities Institute, a coaching and public speaking firm that works with mothers and women in leadership. Devine is the first Black woman to serve on Columbia’s city council.

Erykah Badu, singer-songwriter
Grambling State University

Erykah Badu is a Dallas-based singer songwriter and actress best known as the queen of neosoul. She has been nominated for 19 Grammys and has won three, including in 2003 for Best R&B Song. Badu is also a practicing doula and was the midwife for the birth of singer Teyana Taylor’s child.