Significant HBCU Art Grads

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Significant HBCU Art Grads

Amidst famous HBCU grads who went on to change the landscape of politics, modern medicine, civil rights, space exploration, and so much more, there are a great many significant HBCU arts grads that we must honor as well. Here, we'll recognize five of the countless men and women who have personally touched American culture.

  1. Toni Morrison

    Toni MorrisonAs one of the literary world's greatest African American authors, Morrison began her educational career at Howard University. She earned a BA in English in 1953 and went on to study and teach at Cornell University and Texas Southern University. Morrison is known for works like The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved. She's earned a plethora of literary distinctions, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She currently serves as a chair at Princeton University.

  2. Taraji P. Henson

    Taraji P. HensonTaraji P. Henson is a powerhouse in the acting world, with roles in the popular Empire show as well as Hidden Figures, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, No Good Deed, and Boston Legal. While she initially began her academic journey at NC A&T for electrical engineering, Henson changed her course by enrolling at Howard University. Pursuing a Theatre degree, Henson continued her education through pregnancy and graduated in 1995. She won a Golden Globe for her role in Empire in 2015. In 2016, Henson worked with MAC Cosmetics to introduce the Taraji P. Henson makeup collection. She continued her work with them as a spokesperson for the Viva Glam Campaign, which raised money for MAC's HIV/AIDS fund. She's also stood with PETA and the NOH8 Campaign.

  3. Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah WinfreyThis woman hardly needs an introduction! Winfrey won an Elks Club speaking contest in high school, which secured a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. She graduated in 1986 with a BA in communications. She went on to become the world's first black female billionaire and has made history with The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a large assortment of film and tv roles.

  4. Chadwick Boseman

    Chadwick BosemanAlthough Chadwick Boseman is now best known as playing T'Challa in Black Panther, this actor has been a major player in the acting community for years. In 2000, he earned a BFA in directing at Howard University and went on to attend the British American Drama Academy in England. Picking up various stage and tv show roles throughout his career, Boseman has recently starred in larger films like 42, Get on Up, and Thurgood. In 2018, he returned to Howard and gave the commencement speech, ending it with the iconic Wakanda salute. While there, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Howard's highest honor.

  5. Varnette Honeywood

    Varnette HoneywoodThis is a name you may or may not know. You have, however, seen her artwork in the backdrops of popular television shows. After graduating from Spelman College with a BA in Art in 1972, Honeywood went on to earn an MA in Education at the University of Southern California. Her work often depicted the everyday life of African Americans—from cooking, spending time with family, doing hair, and more. Camille and Bill Cosby caught on to her artwork and began collecting pieces. This led them to introduce Honeywood's art to the sets of The Cosby Show and A Different World. You can also find her painting scattered about in The Steve Harvey Show, Golden Girls, Melrose Place, Smart Guy, and My Wife and Kids.

While STEM is an area often celebrated in discussions on HBCUs, the art programs of these institutions have produced some of our country's greatest Black actors, artists, personalities, and activists. It goes to show that whether you leave your HBCU with a BA or BS, you'll be walking in the footsteps of honorable Black figures.

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