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List Rules People on this list must have gone to Fisk University and be of some renown.

List of famous alumni from Fisk University, with photos when available. Prominent graduates from Fisk University include celebrities, politicians, business people, athletes and more. This list of distinguished Fisk University alumni is loosely ordered by relevance, so the most recognizable celebrities who attended Fisk University are at the top of the list. This directory is not just composed of graduates of this school, as some of the famous people on this list didn't necessarily earn a degree from Fisk University.

The list you're viewing is made up of a variety of different graduates, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Marion Barry.

This list answers the questions “Which famous people went to Fisk University?” and “Which celebrities are Fisk University alumni?”

1
W.E.B. Du Bois is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
W.E.B. Du Bois Editor, Journalist, Historian William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, ...more

2
Ida B. Wells is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Ida B. Wells Journalist, Women's rights activist Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United ...more

3
Otis Boykin is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Otis Boykin Inventor, Engineer Otis Frank Boykin was an African-American inventor and engineer.

4
Charles Diggs is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Charles Diggs Politician Charles Coles Diggs, Jr. was an African-American politician from the U.S. state of Michigan. Diggs was an early member of the civil rights movement. He attended the trial of Emmett Till's ...more

5
Alcee Hastings is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Alcee Hastings Judge, Politician Alcee Lamar Hastings is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 20th congressional district, serving in Congress since 1993. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He served as a Judge on the ...more

6
James Weldon Johnson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
James Weldon Johnson Poet, Novelist, Author James Weldon Johnson was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the ...more

7
Marion Barry is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Marion Barry Politician, Actor Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. was an American politician who served as the second Mayor of the District of Columbia from 1979 to 1991, and again as the fourth mayor from 1995 to 1999. A Democrat, ...more

8
Julius Lester is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Julius Lester Musician, Author, Writer Julius Lester is an American author of books for children and adults, and taught for 32 years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is also a photographer, as well as a musician who ...more

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Nikki Giovanni is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Nikki Giovanni Activist, Poet, Professor Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni Jr. is an American writer, commentator, activist, and educator. One of the world's most well-known African American poets, her work includes poetry ...more

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John Hope Franklin is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
John Hope Franklin Historian, Professor, Author John Hope Franklin was an American historian of the United States and former president of Phi Beta Kappa, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the ...more

11
David Levering Lewis is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
David Levering Lewis Biographer, Historian, Professor David Levering Lewis is the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History at New York University. He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, for part ...more

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Mathew Knowles is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Mathew Knowles Record producer, Businessperson, Film Producer Mathew Knowles is an American talent manager and businessman. He is best known for being the manager of the Grammy award winning multi-platinum R&B girl group, Destiny’s Child. He also ...more

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Percy Lavon Julian is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Percy Lavon Julian Chemist, Professor, Scientist Percy Lavon Julian was an American research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and ...more

14
Lil Hardin Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Lil Hardin Armstrong Arranger, Jazz Pianist, Musician Lil Hardin Armstrong was a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, singer, and bandleader, and the second wife of Louis Armstrong with whom she collaborated on many recordings in the 1920s. Hardin's ...more

15
Victor O. Frazer is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Victor O. Frazer Politician Victor O. Frazer was a Delegate from the United States Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives. He was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. He attended Fisk University and ...more

16
William L. Dawson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
William L. Dawson Lawyer William Levi Dawson was an African-American politician who represented Chicago, Illinois for more than 27 years in the United States House of Representatives. In the 1940s he was active in the ...more

17
Hazel R. O'Leary is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Hazel R. O'Leary Politician Hazel Reid O'Leary was the seventh United States Secretary of Energy, from 1993 to 1997, appointed by President Bill Clinton. As of 2012, she is the first and only woman and first and only ...more

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Nella Larsen is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Nella Larsen Nurse, Novelist, Writer Nellallitea "Nella" Larsen, born Nellie Walker, was an American novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. First working as a nurse and a librarian, she published two novels—Quicksand and ...more

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Wade H. McCree is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Wade H. McCree Judge, Lawyer Wade Hampton McCree, Jr. was an American attorney, judge, public official and law professor. He was the first African American appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and ...more

20
W. C. Handy is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
W. C. Handy Songwriter, Musician, Bandleader William Christopher Handy was an American blues composer and musician. He was widely known as the "Father of the Blues". Handy remains among the most influential of American ...more

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Constance Baker Motley is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Constance Baker Motley Judge, Lawyer Constance Baker Motley was an African-American civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough President of Manhattan, New York City.

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Jimmie Lunceford is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Jimmie Lunceford Saxophonist, Musician, Bandleader James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford was an American jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era.

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Aaron Douglas is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Aaron Douglas Artist Aaron Douglas was an African-American painter and a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

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Mandisa is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Mandisa Music artist, Singer Mandisa Lynn Hundley, known professionally as Mandisa, is an American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist. Her career began in the fifth season of American Idol, in which she ...more

25
Etta Zuber Falconer is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Etta Zuber Falconer Mathematician Etta Zuber Falconer was an educator and mathematician who was one of the first African-American women to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

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George Padmore is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
George Padmore Writer George Padmore, born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse in Trinidad, was a leading Pan-Africanist, journalist, and author who left Trinidad in 1924 to study in the United States and from there moved to ...more

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Sylvia del Villard is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Sylvia del Villard Sylvia del Villard, was an actress, dancer, choreographer and Afro-Puerto Rican activist.

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Johnny Dunn is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Johnny Dunn Trumpeter Johnny Dunn was an American traditional jazz trumpeter and vaudeville performer, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He is probably best known for his work during the 1920s with musicians such ...more

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Melvin B. Tolson is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Melvin B. Tolson Poet, Politician, Journalist Melvin Beaunorus Tolson was an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician. His work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical ...more

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Lewis Wade Jones is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Lewis Wade Jones Lewis Wade Jones was a sociologist and educator. He was born in Cuero, Texas, the son of Wade E. and Lucynthia McDade Jones. A member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, he received his A.B. degree ...more

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St. Elmo Brady is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
St. Elmo Brady Chemist Saint Elmo Brady was the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in the United States. He received his doctorate at the University of Illinois in 1916.

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Tom Wilson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Tom Wilson Record producer Thomas Blanchard Wilson Jr. was an American record producer best known for his work in the 1960s with Bob Dylan, the Mothers of Invention, Simon and Garfunkel, the Velvet Underground, Cecil ...more

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Undine Smith Moore is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Undine Smith Moore Composer Undine Smith Moore was a notable and prolific female African-American composer of the 20th century. She began studying piano at age seven, and at the age of 20 became the first graduate of Fisk ...more

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Charles H. Wesley is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Charles H. Wesley Historian, Author, Writer Charles Harris Wesley was an American historian, educator, minister, and author. He published more than 15 books on African-American history, served as president of Wilberforce University, and ...more

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John Wesley Work III is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
John Wesley Work III Musician, Composer John Wesley Work III was a composer, educator, choral director, musicologist and scholar of African-American folklore and music.

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Cora Brown is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Cora Brown Politician Cora Mae Brown, was the first African-American woman elected to a United States state senate, winning a seat in the Michigan State Senate in 1952.

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Kym Whitley is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Kym Whitley Comedian, Film Producer, Actor Kym Elizabeth Whitley is an American comedian and actress. She is best known for her roles on television sitcoms such as; Animal Practice, The Boondocks, Young & Hungry and The Parkers. ...more

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Rachel B. Noel is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Rachel B. Noel Politician Rachel Bassette Noel was an African-American educator, politician and civil rights leader. She is best known for the "Noel Resolution", which integrated the Denver city school

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Robert James is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Robert James American football player Robert James is a former American football defensive back who played six seasons from 1969 to 1974 for the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League. James was a three time Pro Bowler in ...more

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Bobby William Austin is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Bobby William Austin Professor, Writer Bobby William Austin is an American sociologist, lecturer, and writer. He is a leading scholar on African-American men and boys and was the first person, as a Program Officer with the W.K. ...more

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Theo Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Theo Mitchell Politician, Lawyer Theo W. Mitchell is an attorney from South Carolina who served in the South Carolina General Assembly from 1975 to 1995.

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Mary Frances Berry is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Mary Frances Berry Historian, Professor Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chairwoman of the United States ...more

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J.O. Patterson, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
J.O. Patterson, Jr. Bishop, Pastor, Legislator James Oglethorpe "J. O." Patterson, Jr. was a Bishop in the Church of God in Christ and a former Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee.

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Robert McFerrin is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Robert McFerrin Actor, Singer Robert Keith McFerrin, Sr. was an American operatic baritone and the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. His voice was described by critic Albert ...more

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Louis George Gregory is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Louis George Gregory Louis George Gregory was a prominent member of the Bahá'í Faith posthumously appointed a Hand of the Cause, the highest appointed position in the Bahá'í Faith, by

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Venida Evans is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Venida Evans Actor Venida Evans is an American television, film, stage and commercial actress. Evans is perhaps best known to audiences for her role as "The Muse" in a series of IKEA television ...more

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Frank Yerby is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Frank Yerby Novelist, Writer Frank Garvin Yerby was an African-American historical novelist. He is best known as the first African-American writer to become a millionaire from his pen, and to have a book purchased by a ...more

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John Lewis is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
John Lewis Politician, Writer John Robert Lewis is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia ...more

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Roland Hayes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Roland Hayes Singer Roland Hayes was an American lyric tenor.and composer. He is considered the first African-American male concert artist to receive wide acclaim both at home and internationally. Critics lauded ...more

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Helen Phillips is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Famous Fisk University Alumni
Helen Phillips Singer Helen L. Phillips was an American dramatic lyric soprano who broke though racial barriers as a concert singer and—almost in passing—on the opera stage.