The Color Purple hit theaters this Christmas Day and the performance reviews are already giving Black Excellence! It’s no surprise to know that some of our key figures in TCP franchise hail from HBCUs.
Check out the HBCU-studded Color Purple Alum:
Alice Walker from Spelman College
Walker is an American novelist, writer, poet, and activist, notably known for authoring The Color Purple in 1982. After graduating valedictorian from Butler Baker High School, Walker enrolled in Spelman College in 1961 on a full scholarship.
Much of her time at Spelman College was spent participating in the fight for Civil Rights in the state of Georgia. Walker spoke out against segregation and marched in several demonstrations. Though leaving in 1963 for Sarah Lawerence, Walker cites her time at Spelman as an “influential force” in her life as a writer and activist.
In 1983, Walker became the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple.
Oprah Winfrey from Tennessee State University
Oprah Winfrey is an American talk show host, producer, actress, and author, best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-2011). After winning Miss Black Nashville in 1972 and Miss Black Tennessee, Winfrey won a full scholarship and enrolled in Tennessee State University to study communication and performing arts.
Winfrey was near degree completion when she co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s adaption of The Color Purple in 1985. Winfrey played Sofia, the wife of Harpo and daughter-in-law to Mister. She was nominated at the Oscars and Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Winfrey graduated from TSU the following year in 1986.
Winfrey has been publicly dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, and is ranked one of the most influential women in the world.
Fantasia Barrino-Taylor from Central State University
Fantasia Barrino-Taylor is an American singer and actress, widely known as the Season 3 winner of American Idol in 2004. In 2005, Fantasia released her autobiography Life Is Not a Fairy Tale, and later starred in the 2006 film adaption. Taylor revealed in her autobiography that she attended Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina. However, she later dropped out due to public embarrassment from being raped by a classmate.
After her acclaimed performance as Celie Johnson in the The Color Purple musical, Taylor was cast to reprise her role in the 2023 film adaption. Taylor has already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and Satellite Award.
Taraji P. Henson from Howard University
Taraji P. Henson is an American actress and singer, mostly known for her roles in Baby Boy (2001), Hustle & Flow (2005), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), and Hidden Figures, (2016).
After graduating from Oxon Hill High School in 1988, Henson enrolled in North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she intended to study electrical engineering. However, after realizing she wanted to be an actress, she transferred to Howard University to study drama. Henson graduated from Howard in 1995.
Henson plays the new Shug Avery in the 2023 Color Purple. She is ranked one of the most influential actresses and has received several accolades for her timeless performances.
Deon Cole from Philander Smith College
Deon Cole is an American comedian, screenwriter, and actor, mostly known for his roles in Blackish (2014-2022), and the Barbershop movie series.
Cole, originally from Chicago, attended high school at Thornridge High School. He would later enroll at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he earned his acting degree in 1991. Cole has been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. He also launched his own production company, Deon Cole’s Black Box in June 2013.
Cole plays Alfonso, Celie and Nettie’s stepfather in the 2023 Color Purple. In May 2023, he received a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from PSC.
Aunjanue L. Ellis from Tougaloo College
Aunjanue L. Ellis-Taylor is an American actress, mostly known for her roles in several films such as, In Too Deep (1999), Men of Honor (2000), Ray (2004), The Help (2011), and the Oscar-nominated, King Richard (2021).
Ellis enrolled in Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi before transferring to Brown University, where she received her B.A. in African American studies in 1992. Although Ellis left TC for Brown University, she credits the HBCU for giving her the platform to hold her first on-stage performance. She cited that it gave her the motivation to pursue acting.
Ellis-Taylor plays Celie and Nettie’s mother in the 2023 Color Purple. She has received several awards including nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Stephen Hill from Hampton University
Stephen Hill is an award winning actor, known for his multi-layered work in film, TV, theater, and media web series. While working a 9-5 as a sales rep for Xerox, Hill decided to pursue acting full time and enrolled in Hampton University.
Hill plays Henry ‘Buster’ Broadnax, Sofia’s boyfriend, in the 2023 Color Purple.
Hill would go on to receive his B.A. in Broadcast Journalism in 2000. His previous roles include starring in the HBO mini-series, Lewis & Clark, Pete Chatmon’s BlackCard, and in the fifth season of Boardwalk Empire in the recurring role of Clarence.
Tiffany Elle Burgess from Hampton University
Tiffany Elle Burgess is a actress, writer and producer from Nashville, Tennessee. Burgess is notably known for her children’s books, Skin Like Mine (2016), The Adventures of Junior and Baby Brother (2019), and Decisions, Decisions (2023). Her work has also been featured in The Huffington Post and Blavity.
In 1997, Burgess received a Presidential scholarship to Hampton University. Burgess would go on to earn a B.S. in Biology in 2001. Burgess plays Olivia, Celie’s daughter, in the 2023 Color Purple.
In addition to her work as a public health consultant, Burgess is also known for her acting roles in ABC’s The Wonder Years (2021) and appearances in short films such as Glitter Ain’t Gold (2022).
The Color Purple is now in theaters worldwide! Check out the latest trailer below.