A crowd of students wearing their graduation regalia including graduation caps

Famous History Majors

Did you know that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Sonia Sotomayor were history majors? This list offers an entertaining glimpse into the unusual careers some well-known history majors have pursued after their undergraduate studies. 

Some of these history majors are famous, some are not so famous, and some are even infamous. Some, like Abdul-Jabbar, have remained committed to promoting history throughout their careers.

The list is not comprehensive, and inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the AHA. Since the focus of the list is on those who went on to careers outside of the historical profession, we have excluded individuals who currently draw significant income from writing or teaching about the past.

Athletics

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — NBA 
Univ. of California, Los Angeles 

Grant Hill — NBA 
Duke Univ. 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee — Athlete 
Univ. of California, Los Angeles 

Shaka Smart — Athlete and College Basketball Coach
Kenyon College

Business and Nonprofits

Kenneth Chenault — CEO and Chairman, American Express; Chairman, General Catalyst Partners
Bowdoin Coll.

Chelsea Clinton — Author, Nonprofit Leader, and Health Advocate 
Stanford Univ. 

Carly Fiorina — Businesswoman, Hewlett-Packard
Stanford Univ. 

Chris Hughes — Co-Founder, Facebook
Harvard Univ.

Sam Kass — Chef, Nonprofit Leader  
Univ. of Chicago 

Robert L. Johnson — Entrepreneur, BET 
Univ. of Illinois 

Alexis Ohanian — Co-Founder and Chairman, Reddit
Univ. of Virginia

Sam Palmisano — CEO, IBM 
Johns Hopkins Univ. 

John Pepper — CEO and Chairman, Procter & Gamble
Yale Univ. 

Martha Stewart — Businesswoman 
Barnard Coll.

Sevetri Wilson — CEO, Resilia
Louisiana State Univ.

Susan Diane Wojcicki — CEO, YouTube
Harvard Univ.

Film and Television

Sean Astin — Actor 
Univ. of California, Los Angeles 

Ellen Barkin — Actor
Hunter Coll.

Sacha Baron Cohen — Comedian 
Univ. of Cambridge

Dean Cain — Actor 
Princeton Univ. 

Steve Carell — Comedian
Denison Univ. 

Julia Child — Chef, Author, TV Presenter 
Smith Coll. 

Larry David — Comedian 
Univ. of Maryland

Brian Dennehy — Actor 
Columbia Univ. 

Will Forte — Actor
Univ. of California, Los Angeles 

Cary Fukunaga — Director
Univ. of California, Santa Cruz 

Katherine Hepburn — Actor
Bryn Mawr Coll. 

John Lithgow — Actor 
Harvard Univ. (History and Literature)

Christopher Meloni — Actor 
Univ. of Colorado at Boulder 

Errol Morris — Documentarian 
Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison

Edward Norton — Actor 
Yale Univ. 

Conan O’Brien — Comedian 
Harvard Univ. (History and Literature)

Michael Palin — Actor 
Univ. of Oxford 

Journalism and Writing

Ramtin Arablouei — Journalist, NPR 
Saint Mary’s Coll. of Maryland 

Chris Berman — Commentator, ESPN 
Brown Univ. 

Wolf Blitzer — Journalist, CNN 
Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York 

Terry Gannon — Sportscaster 
North Carolina State Univ. 

Jasmine Guillory — Novelist
Wellesley Coll. 

Alix Harrow — Novelist
Berea Coll.

Seymour Hersh — Journalist, New Yorker 
Univ. of Chicago 

Mikki Kendall — Author and Commentator
Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Charles Kuralt — Journalist, CBS 
Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Annie Proulx — Novelist
Univ. of Vermont

Kai Ryssdal — Host, NPR’s Marketplace 
Emory Univ. 

Kristen Welker — Journalist, NBC 
Harvard Univ.

Law

Eric Holder — Former US Attorney General 
Columbia Univ. 

Elena Kagan — US Supreme Court Justice 
Princeton Univ.

Brett Kavanaugh — US Supreme Court Justice
Yale Univ.

Joshua Matz — Attorney 
Univ. of Pennsylania 

John Roberts — US Supreme Court Chief Justice
Harvard Univ.

Antonin Scalia — Former US Supreme Court Justice 
Georgetown Univ. 

Sonia Sotomayor — US Supreme Court Justice 
Princeton Univ. 

Joshua Stein — Attorney General of North Carolina
Dartmouth Coll.

Music

Jimmy Buffett — Singer-songwriter 
Univ. of Southern Mississippi 

Anthony da Costa — Singer-songwriter 
Columbia Univ. 

Politics

John Baldacci — Governor of Maine 
Univ. of Maine, Orono 

Joseph Biden Jr. — US President 
Univ. of Delaware 

Gordon Brown — UK Prime Minister 
Univ. of Edinburgh 

George W. Bush — US President 
Yale Univ. 

Tom Cole — US House of Representatives 
Grinnell Coll. 

Ron DeSantis — Governor of Florida
Yale Univ.

Ken Dryden — NHL, Canadian Parliament 
Cornell Univ. 

Newt Gingrich — US House of Representatives 
Emory Univ. 

Orrin Hatch — US Senate 
Brigham Young Univ. 

Josh Hawley — US Senate 
Stanford Univ. 

Deidre Henderson — Utah Lt. Governor 
Brigham Young Univ. 

Richard Nixon — US President
Whittier Coll. 

Stacey Plaskett — US House of Representatives Delegate 
Georgetown Univ. 

Susan Rice — National Security Advisor, Domestic Policy Council Director
Stanford Univ.

Pat Robertson — Televangelist and Presidential Candidate 
Washington and Lee Univ. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt — US President
Harvard Univ.

Famous History Majors is maintained and updated by AHA staff. The AHA is grateful to Catherine M. Burns (Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison), who provided the basis for the original version of this compilation, and to Charles V. Reed (Elizabeth City State Univ.) for additional suggestions.