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How a Howard University student launched a bold apparel brand for HBCUs

Legacy History Pride’s elevated varsity jackets and other merch celebrate the excellence and culture of HBCUs. Now it’s got a new collection for the Brooklyn Nets.

How a Howard University student launched a bold apparel brand for HBCUs
[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]

In the spring of 2016, Tahir Murray saw then-President Barack Obama give the commencement address at his sister’s graduation from Howard University in Washington, D.C. The teenager, who attended an all-male, predominately white boarding school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was mesmerized by the roar from the graduating class when it responded to Obama’s pep rally-like shout-out. Murray knew instantly that he wanted to go to Howard and create something that reflected both his school spirit and his heritage.

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[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
Three years later, as a student at Howard, Murray created Legacy History Pride, an apparel company that celebrates the vibrant culture at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The name is a homage to life “on the yard,” or campus, and the standards of excellence predominantly Black colleges and universities were founded on.

Tahir “Mr. Legacy” Murray [Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
LHP holds 40 licenses out of 107 HBCUs that serve about 228,000 Black and brown students, with a portion of the proceeds from each item sold donated to the partner institutions. The products—embroidered varsity jackets, crewnecks with school colors and logos, fleece shorts, graphic tees, hoodies, beanies, and cardigans—mirror current students’ tastes, a bold departure from the merchandise typically sold in campus bookstores. Murray designs most of the merchandise himself, working alongside a freelance design team.

“We’re very intentional with every detail,” Murray, now 22, says. “We’re a swaggy culture, and we want to make sure that the products we make are representative and synonymous to the excellence that’s rooted in the community.”

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Today, LHP unveiled a limited edition three-piece collection with NBA franchise Brooklyn Nets as part of the team’s Black History Month and HBCU outreach programming.

[Photo: courtesy Brooklyn Nets]
“We’re celebrating pioneers from the past, present, and future,” says Jackie Wilson II, the Nets’ chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. “Black history isn’t just something of the past but something that’s being created in real time. We’re trying to show people in the community folks who look like them who are operating in business. It’s important that people see themselves in those leaders.”

[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]

Three generations of entrepreneurship

Murray was a full-time student when he launched LHP, managing its operations from his dorm: conducting photo shoots, learning new software, waiting months for application approvals for official licenses, sketching out concepts, producing digital content, and recruiting talent from his student peer network.

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[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
By 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and rise in social protests led to HBCUs seeing an increase in attention, charitable gifts,  and corporate partnerships. At the same time, LHP’s production was briefly disrupted because of supply-chain issues.

[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
Then, the brand started trending on social media. Chris Paul, Chance the Rapper, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, Nick Cannon, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Cam Newton were spotted wearing LHP garments. The following year LHP partnered with the Los Angeles Sparks on the championship WNBA franchises’s 25th anniversary capsule collection.

Tahir and Ortner “Von” Murray [Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
Murray was born in Brooklyn and moved to Atlanta as a preteen. He’s a third-generation entrepreneur. His grandfather, Ortner “Von” Murray, was a West Indian immigrant who opened a shoe-repair business that later became a popular sneaker shop in the Queens borough of New York. His father, Gerard Murray, founded the ’90s T-shirt labels Queens 7 and School of Hard Knocks as well as a collegiate lifestyle brand, Tradition Ever Since, that operated from 2012 to 2020. Named a Nike Yardrunner twice, Tahir Murray tagged along with his father on numerous trips to trade shows, Black fraternity and sorority step shows, and homecoming activities hoping to someday find his niche in the family enterprise.

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[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
During Murray’s freshman year, he convinced his “superhero” to let him become Tradition’s marketing director, taking over the company’s social media accounts, digital marketing, and promotion of the collection at Howard.

A summer internship with J. Crew’s men’s merchandising department in 2019 sharpened Murray’s curiosity about branding and development as he shadowed his manager in meetings with various departments, observing how each division contributed to the clothing retailer’s brand identity.

[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
“It shaped my thoughts on how to plan every step of the process,” Murray says. “Everything has to make sense and really mold into one vision.”

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[Photo: courtesy Legacy History Pride]
LHP recently added Bowie State University to its slate of licenses and is planning to release collections exclusively for women and kids. The company’s partnership with HBCU Alliance continues to spearhead scholarships and fundraising efforts for the schools. Now based in Atlanta, Murray hopes to grow LHP into the definitive Black-owned HBCU apparel company while continuing the momentum both his late grandfather and father created.

“LHP is more than just a product,” Murray, who graduated from Howard in 2021, says. “It’s a legacy story about creating opportunities, and LHP is a three-generation Black story in apparel. We just have to make sure we’re using these platforms to educate people and pour back into these communities that are influencing the culture.”

Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta-based journalist, cultural critic, ethnomusicologist, and digital journalism professor at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. 

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