The newly reestablished College of Fine Arts is named in honor of alumnus Chadwick A. Boseman, whose remarkable career as an actor, director, writer, and producer inspired millions around the world.
In 1968, Charles M.
WASHINGTON – The Howard University Chadwick A.
WASHINGTON – Howard University and Netflix today have announced a
Award-winning actor and producer, Class of 2000, Bachelor of Fine Arts
A native of South Carolina, Chadwick Boseman graduated from Howard University and attended the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford, after which he began his career as an actor, director and writer. Boseman starred as T'Challa/Black Panther in the worldwide phenomenon Marvel Studios' "Black Panther," which has shattered box-office records both domestically and internationally. Boseman made his debut as the African superhero Black Panther in Marvel Studios’ “Captain America: Civil War,” in May 2016. He reprised the role for Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” in 2019.Boseman's breakout performance came in 2013 when he received rave reviews for his portrayal of the legendary Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros’ “42.” He previously starred in the title role of Open Road Films’ “Marshall,” which tells the story of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases as the Chief Counsel to the NAACP. His other feature film credits include: the revenge thriller “Message from the King,” Summit Entertainment's “Draft Day,” the independent psychological post-war drama, “The Kill Hole” and Gary Fleders’ drama, “The Express.”Boseman was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016. During his four-year battle with cancer, he continued his work, persevering through the production of several films between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. Boseman passed away in August of 2020, surrounded by his wife and family.
Purpose is the essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.
Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.
Opera Singer & Humanitarian, Class of 1967, Bachelor of Music
Jessye Norman was a Grammy Award-winning operatic singer, humanitarian, and Howard alumna known for her powerful voice and stage presence. She was born in 1945 in Augusta, Georgia to a musical family that nurtured her budding talent. Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Norman helped to integrate local businesses, participating in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. At the age of 16, Norman’s performance at a vocal competition earned her a full scholarship to Howard University. She graduated from Howard in 1967 with a degree in music, then went on to complete her graduate education at the Peabody Conservatory and later at the Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Over the course of her lifetime, she earned several honorary degrees from a number of other prestigious institutions.Norman’s opera career took off in Europe. She made her debut in 1969 in Germany, then continued to perform at famous opera houses around the world. Her worldwide success as a Black woman on the operatic stage was both rare and groundbreaking. Though billed as an operatic soprano, Norman had an impressive vocal range and a diverse range of musical interests, including popular music, gospel, blues, and more. As a humanitarian, Norman addressed hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts education. In 2003, the Jessye Norman School of the Arts opened in her hometown of Augusta to provide free education in the arts to underprivileged children. After a long and successful career, she died of complications related to a spinal injury in 2019. Thanks in part to her trailblazing efforts, Norman left the opera world a more inclusive place than when she entered it.
One needs more than ambition and talent to make a success of anything, really. There must be love and a vocation.
Artist, first graduate of the Department of Art, Class of 1924, Bachelor of Science
Alma Thomas was an artist and educator best known for her colorful abstract paintings. Born and raised in Columbus, GA., her family moved to Washington, D.C. when she was 15, seeking relief from the racial climate of the South. Thomas graduated from Howard University in 1924, becoming the first person to graduate from the newly-formed Department of Art. Though Thomas’s early artwork was realistic, her Howard professor James V. Herring and peer Lois Mailou Jones—both notable artists in their own right—encouraged her to experiment with abstract styles. Thomas taught art for 35 years and pursued painting in her free time. After retiring from teaching, Thomas developed her signature abstract style and debuted her first exhibition at Howard University at the age of 75. Her mosaic-like paintings translated art history, nature, and personal aesthetic in simple compositions influenced by the pointillism and abstract expressionism movements. Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American art. In 2015, 37 years after her death, Thomas's piece “Resurrection” (1966) became the first piece of artwork by a Black woman to hang in a public space in the White House and enter the permanent collection.
My real belief is in my art, in beauty. I say everyone on earth should take note of the spring of the year coming back every year, blooming and gorgeous.
Artist, professor, curator, Class of 1955, Bachelor of Fine Arts
A 1955 graduate of Howard, Professor David C. Driskell began his studies in 1949 as a history major, however, his outstanding work in the drawing class of Professor James Wells not only led him to become an art major and afforded him a full scholarship. It was Professor James A. Porter who then urged him to switch to art history, stating: “You just can’t afford to be an artist, you must also show the world what our people have contributed.”
Driskell excelled in the rigorous art history curriculum, as well as in design, drawing, painting, and printmaking. He soon achieved his greatest triumph as a student—a scholarship to the prestigious summer program at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he won the 1953 Leonard Bacour Progress Prize in Art. In the Fall, Dr. Driskell assigned his own painting studio by the Howard University College of Fine Arts and studied under Dr. Albert Carter (1915-1977) the Curator of the Art Gallery, who Dr. Driskell assisted with the a major exhibition of African Art.
After earning his B.F.A. from Howard in 1955, and his M.F.A from Catholic University in 1962, Dr. Driskell looked to university teaching. His professorial career began at Talladega College in 1958. In 1961, he exhibited at the Howard’s new art gallery in the show, “New Vistas in American Art.” Over time, he evolved into a true art historian, a curator and author, art consultant, and most importantly, a practicing artist.
In 1962, Dr. Driskell was selected as a full-time faculty member at Howard; and in 1963-64, he was appointed Acting Chairman of the Art Department and Director of the Art Gallery during Professor Porter’s sabbatical year. During this period, Dr. Driskell published a complete informational brochure of the Art Department for the public. As a member of the American Federation of Arts, he secured funding for the purchase of 15 modern masterworks for the permanent collection.
In 1966, Professor Driskell became Chairman of the Art Department and Director of the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk University. As gallery director, Professor Driskell cultivated a relationship with two of Americas’ greatest artists. Georgia O’ Keeffe (1887-1986) was known as the “mother of American Modernism” and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) pioneered urban nocturnal views as fine art.
In the 1970s, Professor Driskell exhibited his own work widely and he cataloged the Fisk University collection with Professor Earl Hooks. His greatest achievement of this period was the curation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition: “Two Centuries of Black American Art, 1750-1950,” which included 200 works by 63 artists. It was a monumental undertaking that exposed black artistic achievement to the masses on a grand scale. The 1970s also saw Professor Driskell’s departure from Fisk to assume a professorship at the University of Maryland, where he became Chairman of the Department of Art in 1978. In 1980 he was honored with a solo exhibition at the gallery there: “David C. Driskell, a Survey”; and in 1981, his alma mater, Howard, bestowed upon him the Distinguished Alumni Award.
His most ambitious undertaking in the fields of exhibiting and teaching African American art and contextualizing black art history occurred in 1999. Sponsored by the Andover Academy of American Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, “To Preserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities” was an eight city, two year journey, exhibiting the collections of six institutions: Howard, Fisk, Hampton, Clark-Atlanta, Tuskegee and North Carolina Central. Not only were their collections shown at the major civic museums adjacent to each school but, the ancillary shows of additional masterpieces from their permanent collections helped to continuously spark headlines. This undertaking embodied the passion that Professor Driskell had for black art institutions, especially HBCUs.
Source: Scott W. Baker
Actress, Producer, Mental Health Advocate, Class of 1995, Bachelor of Fine Arts
Taraji P. Henson is an Academy Award-nominated actress, producer, and mental health advocate. She was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in an apartment that she described as “one step up from the projects”. Henson’s path to an acting career was not always clear-cut. After graduating high school, she pursued a degree in electrical engineering at North Carolina University, but dropped out after failing a math class. Henson transferred to Howard University, where she studied theater while working two jobs to support herself and her newborn son.
After graduating from Howard in 1995, Henson moved to Los Angeles, where she took on an office job and landed small roles in various television series. Her breakthrough role came in 2001, when she starred in the film, “Baby Boy.” From there, her repertoire of film roles grew, and in 2008, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as the titular character’s mother in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” She focused primarily on film until 2015, when she returned to television in “Empire” as Cookie Lyon, a role for which she received an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe award. Her 2016 role as Katherine Johnson in the critically acclaimed film “Hidden Figures” cemented Henson’s popularity and iconic status. In 2018, Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, a nonprofit committed to challenging the perception of mental illness in the African American community.
GRAMMY award-winning musician, Class of 1958, Bachelors in Music Education
Classically trained on the piano, GRAMMY Award-winning musician Roberta Flack received a music scholarship at age 15 to attend Howard University. She was discovered by jazz musician Les McCann while singing at the Washington, D.C. nightclub, Mr. Henry's, and was promptly signed to Atlantic with a string of hits, including, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Where Is the Love” (a duet with former Howard University classmate Donny Hathaway), “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “Feel Like Makin' Love,” “The Closer I Get to You,” “Tonight I Celebrate My Love,” and “Set the Night to Music.” In 1999, she received a star on Hollywood's legendary Walk of Fame. Flack regularly performs for audiences around the world, and has had the pleasure of appearing with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In February 2009, Flack performed with critically acclaimed orchestras in Australia, including the Melbourne, Queensland, and Sydney Symphonies. She is currently involved with a new venture — an interpretive album of Beatles' classics. As a humanitarian and mentor, Flack founded the Roberta Flack School of Music at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx, providing an innovative and inspiring music education program to underprivileged students free of charge.
My hope is that out of all the anger and seeming hostility that we hear in some of today's music will come some sort of coalition that will become politically involved.