Women's History Month: HBCU Women Light Up Stage and Screen

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When Taraji Henson was nominated for an Academy Award this year for best supporting actress, he celebration rippled beyond Hollywood and into the halls of two historically Black universities. Henson attended North Carolina A&T State University and graduated from Howard University as a theater major in 1995.

Henson, who was nominated for the Oscar for her role in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" but did not win, is one of dozens of female graduates from HBCUs whose names are illuminating marquees all over the country. In films, on W, on Broadway and in community theaters, these grads are not only demonstrating their own talent, but they are promoting the performing arts programs of their respective institutions.

"I've never seen anybody who could occupy their space the way Taraji could. You knew this girl was going somewhere; says Mark Jolin, a professor of acting in Howard's School of Fine Arts.

Success on stage and screen is not new for Howard grads. Among the best known are sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad. Rashad won a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Play for "A Raisin in the Sun" in 2004, and the multitalented Allen won two Emmys for the hit IV show "Fame."

At Florida A&M University, director of theatre Dr. Valencia Matthews shared in the excitement when former student Anika Noni Rose won a Tony Award for her 2004 performance in "Caroline, or Change:' Rose has since jetted to stardom, co-starring in the movie "Dreamgirls," and she is currently in HBO's 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency."

Matthews visited with Rose after seeing her on Broadway in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" last year with Terrence Howard and Phylicia Rashad. …