Love, HBCU Style

Celebrating legendary couples who met at an HBCU

Its no secret that many couples met when they were college students and of course that includes many HBCU alumni.  The Hundred-Seven is celebrating couples who gave the term #HBCULove a different meaning.

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Mamie and Kenneth Clark

Howard University

When Mamie Phipps met Kenneth Clark at Howard, she was an unhappy physics student.  Kenneth convinced her to change her major to psychology. They married in 1937 when Mamie was a senior. They eloped because her mother did not want her to marry before graduation. The couple attended Columbia University for graduate school.  They are best known for their groundbreaking study using dolls to show how black children were made to feel inferior by segregation.  

John and Patricia Stephens Due

Florida A&M University

John and Patricia met as students at Florida A&M. Both were active in Tallahassee's civil rights movement. Patricia was arrested and jailed for her activism. Her eyes were damaged from being teargassed and she took a decade to graduate from college due to her activism. John Due was a law student at FAMU during this time. They married in August of 1963 and took a trip to DC for the March on Washington for their honeymoon. They are the parents of novelist, Tananarive Due.

Myrlie & Medgar Evers

Alcorn State University

On Myrlie's first day on the campus of Alcorn State she met Medgar Evers, a junior and World War II veteran. They married on Christmas Eve, 1951 and had three children. Medgar became the Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP and Myrlie worked alongside him as his secretary. Together they organized voter registration drives and civil rights demonstrations. During the nearly 12 years of their marriage they worked to end segregation in Mississippi; their home in Jackson, Mississippi being bombed in 1962, two years before Medgar was assassinated in the driveway.  

Shirley & Bernard Kinsey

Florida A&M University

Businessman Bernard Kinsey and his wife Shirley, an educator, met as students at FAMU before embarking on careers in California. They are the owners of The Kinsey Collection, a national touring museum exhibit of their collection African American art and history dating back to 1600. The collection has been viewed by over 3 million people. They have raised over $22 million for charitable causes including $11 million to their alma mater and $7 million for United Way. The Kinseys established an arts and education foundation that educates and raisies awareness about African American history and ancestry.

Freddie & C. Payne Lucas

Maryland State College (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore)

C. Payne Lucas is the co-founder and retired president of Africare,  the oldest and largest African-American nonprofit organization specializing in aid to Africa. Freddie was the first female and first African American lobbyist for JC Penney.  They met on the campus of Maryland State College where Freddie, a recent graduate of Morgan State, was a Physical Education instructor and Payne was a student who had returned to college after serving in the military. The Paynes were the founders of a consulting firm,  Lodestar, LLC.  

Winonah & David Myers

Central State University

David and Winonah grew up poor- David on a farm in Indiana and Winonah in Cleveland. They both made their way to Central State because it was inexpensive and on arrival found that they were  two of the few white students enrolled at the college. They both spent time in jail after being arrested while taking part in Freedom Rides during the civil rights movement in the 1961. Winonah served the longest jail sentence of any Freedom Rider who was arrested.  They married the following year.  

Edna & Curtis Owens

Central State University

Though Curtis and Edna met as students at Central State they didn't marry until 1989 when they were both living in Los Angeles.  Edna was the longtime assistant to Motown founder, Berry Gordy. She was also co-chief executive of TGC Management, Gordy's intellectual property company and the director and corporate secretary of the Berry Gordy Family Foundation. Curtis was the president of Universal Management Corporation and then led the African American Unity Center. He also opened South Central LA's first Construction Apprenticeship School and served as an advisor to LA's former mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Mabel & Hugh Smythe

Spelman College & Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta)

Hugh Smythe, an alum of Virginia State, was working towards his Master's degree at Atlanta University when he met Spelman student  Mabel Murphy.  They married in 1939.  The couple lived in various US and international cities while continuing their education, teaching at various colleges, including HBCUs and establishing their careers.  The Smythes were the 1st husband & wife to become diplomats in US history.  Hugh was the tenth African-American US ambassador and the first to a Middle Eastern country. He served as the Ambassador to Syria from 1965 to 1967 and Ambassador to Malta from 1967 to 1969.  Mabel was the 2nd black woman to become an Ambassador and served concurrently in Cameroon and Equitorial Guinea from 1977-1980.


(photo credits: public domain,  University of Florida, public domain, WYPR/Baltimore, Liz Lynch, Steve Keesee-Northwest Arkansas Gazette, estate photo, public domain)

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