Considering a career in entertainment, but still want that “A Different World” experience that your friends and family will probably never stop bragging about? If so, then you may want to consider these eight colleges and universities. While Juilliard, Yale, NYU, Berklee, and others are often lobbied as the best choices for students who want to pursue careers in acting, music, directing, and more—there are also credible HBCUs that have not only put major names on the big & small screens and concert stage, but also behind the scenes as executives at major networks, agencies, studios, and music companies.
A number of factors were considered when compiling this list. In entertainment, it is widely accepted that what you decide to major in “doesn’t matter”; however, there are some majors that may better equip you with skills to succeed within the industry. The locations of the colleges and universities were also taken into account, as proximity to or presence in major markets plays a significant role in the types of opportunities students may (or may not) be able to access. Of additional relevance are the types of companies where graduates in entertainment are currently employed, as well as famous/notable alumni.
Tennessee State University
Located in Nashville, Tennessee (long known as a major music industry hub), TSU counts entertainment & media mogul Oprah Winfrey and Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter, Key Wane (Jazmine Sullivan, Big Sean) among its past attendees and alumni.
Virginia’s second-oldest and third-largest HBCU, Hampton has established a strong stake in the fields of music and mass media arts. Among its famed alumni are comedienne Wanda Sykes, radio personality DJ Envy (of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club morning show), DJ Tay James (Justin Bieber’s DJ), and “Entertainment Tonight” co-anchor Kevin Frazier. Shante Bacon, whose company, 135th Street Agency, is highly sought-after for its multicultural entertainment marketing expertise, is also a noted Hampton alumna. The university’s alumni currently hold positions at companies such as Revolt TV and Essence Magazine.
Morgan State University
As the second-oldest HBCU in the state of Maryland (and oldest in Baltimore), Morgan State has long been home to a variety of students who have a passion for arts and entertainment. Among its alumni and past attendees are Oscar-winner Mo’Nique, Black Enterprise founder Earl G. Graves, Sr., and filmmaker David E. Talbert (First Sunday, Baggage Claim, and the forthcoming Almost Christmas). The university’s alumni also work at a variety of music companies, including RCA Records, Atlantic Records, and Def Jam.
Florida A&M University
The nation’s largest HBCU, Florida A&M continues to produce some of the entertainment industry’s best talent. Its alumni of current notoriety are R&B singer and reality star K. Michelle and filmmaker Will Packer (This Christmas, Think Like a Man, Ride Along, Stomp the Yard). Other graduates and past attendees include Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper Common, Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose, songwriter/producer Rico Love, and sports anchor Pam Oliver. FAMU alumni currently hold key roles at companies like Harpo Studios, Revolt TV, and Sony Music Entertainment.
Clark Atlanta University
Benefiting from the bustling music scene of Atlanta, Clark Atlanta counts music video director Bryan Barber (OutKast, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Clarkson), Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox (Mariah Carey, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Monica), DJ Drama, and singer Bobby V. among its alumni and past attendees. Outside of music, Clark Atlanta counts Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon among its alumni ranks; Leon has been dubbed as “Broadway’s leading African-American director,” having directed plays such as Fences and A Raisin in the Sun (the latter of which earned him a Tony). Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, founder of Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), is also a notable graduate, as well as Kenya Barris, who created ABC’s hit sitcom “Blackish” & wrote the screenplay for Barbershop: The Next Cut. Some of the university’s alumni currently hold positions at companies such as Google, Atlantic Records, and Universal Music Group.
Yet another beneficiary of Atlanta’s booming atmosphere, Morehouse (also part of the AUC) has had a long history of producing graduates who go on to have successful careers in the entertainment field. The late Shakir Stewart (who was an EVP at Def Jam at the time of his passing) and gospel stars Byron Cage and Canton Jones are among the college’s notable alumni and famed hip-hop producer Metro Boomin (Future, Drake, Kanye West) recently attended. Currently, Morehouse alumni hold positions at companies such as Parkwood Entertainment, Soundcloud, Spotify, CAA, and Artist Publishing Group. On the film and TV side, Morehouse boasts such graduates as directors Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing) and Seith Mann (“The Wire,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) and actors Samuel L. Jackson and Rockmond Dunbar (“Soul Food,” “Prison Break,” “Sons of Anarchy”).
Widely associated as Morehouse’s sister-school, Spelman College is a well-known incubator for talent in a variety of fields, and the entertainment industry is no exception. The college’s alumni work at companies such as SoundExchange, BET, Universal Music Group, Warner Bros. Records, Interactive One, Revolt TV, ABC Television, Live Nation, AEG Live, CAA, Def Jam, and others. Among its famous alumnae are actresses Cassi Davis (“House of Payne”) and Keshia Knight-Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”), “Access Hollywood” co-anchor Shaun Robinson, and novelist Alice Walker (The Color Purple).
Located in the heart of the nation’s capital, Howard University has a standing reputation for establishing leaders in various fields, and the entertainment industry is no exception. Among its ranks of music industry alumni are multiple Grammy winners and nominees, including Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, Diddy, producer Rich Harrison (Beyoncé, Amerie, Toni Braxton), Kenny Lattimore, Richard Smallwood, and Eric Roberson. Several award-winning actors & actresses are also graduates of Howard, such as Anthony Anderson, Taraji P. Henson, Chadwick Boseman, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, and Lynn Whitfield. Additionally, TV anchors Stan Verrett, Fredricka Whitfield, Michelle Bernard, and AJ Calloway are among Howard alumni. Throughout various facets of the entertainment business, Howard grads currently hold positions at companies like NBC Universal, FOX, BET, CAA, Revolt TV, Atlantic Records, Essence, Ebony, Vibe, American Black Film Festival (ABFF), YouTube, Sony Music, OWN, Def Jam, Warner Music Group, and many others.