Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Alumni on the Silver Screen

March 17th, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

According to celluloid legend, Lana Turner was discovered by Billy Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, while sitting on a stool at Schwab’s Drugstore (actually the Top Hap Malt Shop) in Los Angeles. The myth of the overnight sensation may be fun to contemplate, but for the following African American actors and actresses, the road to Hollywood included hard work and study, along with just a hint of good luck:

  • Jeffrey Wright (B.A., Political Science,  1987), Amherst College
  • Alfre Woodard (BFA, Drama, 1974) Boston University
  • Don Cheadle (BFA, Theatre,1986) California Institute of the Arts
  • Shari Belafonte-Harper (B.F.A., 1976, Drama) Carnegie-Mellon University
  • Aunjanue Ellis (B.A., African American Studies)  Brown University
  • Hill Harper (B.A., magna cum laude) Brown University; (J.D.) Harvard Law School
  • Aisha Tyler (Bachelor’s, Political Science, minor in Environmental Policy), Darthmouth College
  • Denzel Washington (B.A., 1977, Drama) Fordham University
  • T’Keyah Crystal Kemah (Bachelor’s, School of Business and Industry [recruited as a National Merit Scholar]) , Florida A&M University
  • Ossie Davis (Bachelors, 1938) Howard University
  • Lynn Whitefield (Bachelor’s) Howard University 
  • Anthony Anderson (Bachelor’s) Howard University 
  • Wendy Raquel Robinson (BFA, 1989)
  • Ruby Dee (B.A., 1945, French and Spanish), Hunter College
  • Avery Brooks (B.A., MFA, Acting [first Black MFA in Acting to graduate]), Rutgers University
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph (B.A., English Literature major, Theatre Arts minor [At age 19, she became the youngest female graduate and was named one of the Top Ten College Women in America by Glamour magazine.]), Rutgers University
  • Shemar Moore (B.A., Communications [attended on a baseball scholarship]) Santa Clara University
  • Holly Robinson-Peete (B.A., 1986, Psychology and French [did a junior year abroad at the Sorbonne]) Sarah Lawrence College
  • Melvin Van Peebles (Bachelor’s, 1953) Ohio Wesleyan
  • Chandra Wilson (BFA, Drama) New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
  • Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee (B.A., Mass Communication) Morehouse College; (MFA, Film) New York University

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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