Spelman College Announces Nikole Hannah-Jones As Commencement Speaker, Tracee Ellis Ross To Receive Honorary Degree

Spelman College announced today, Nikole Hannah-Jonesthe Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, will deliver the keynote address to graduates during Spelman College’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. She will also receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The ceremony will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, GA.

Hannah-Jones has spent her career investigating racial inequality and injustice, and her reporting has earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the Genius grant, a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards and the National Magazine Award three times.

She also serves as the Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, where she founded the Center for Journalism & Democracy. Hannah-Jones is also the co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of investigative reporters and editors of color, and in 2022 she opened the 1619 Freedom School, a free, afterschool literacy program in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Hannah-Jones holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her Bachelor of Arts in History and African American studies from the University of Notre Dame.

This year’s graduating class of 468 students, receiving 294 Bachelor of Arts and 174 Bachelor of Science degrees, will include four valedictorians, a salutatorian and many high-achieving graduates from across the country.

Class of 2023 Co-Valedictorians and Salutatorian and Majors

Maya Blasingame, Co-Valedictorian, Biology

Amaia Calhoun, Co-Valedictorian, Economics

Sydney DuPree, Co-Valedictorian, Theatre and Performance

Chandler Nutall, Co-Valedictorian, English

Maya Phillips, Salutatorian, Sociology

 

Class of 2023 Top Ten Scholars

Maya Blasingame, Co-Valedictorian, Biology

Amaia Calhoun, Co-Valedictorian, Economics

Sydney DuPree, Co-Valedictorian, Theatre and Performance

Chandler Nutall, Co-Valedictorian, English

Maya Phillips, Salutatorian, Sociology

Annaya Baynes, English

Kayla Bowman, Psychology

Alexandra Jenkins, Economics

Jesseca Lindsey, Spanish

Adrianna Richardson, Biology

 

2023 Honorary Degree

Tracee Ellis Ross, award-winning actress and producer, and CEO and Founder of PATTERN Beauty will receive an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts. Ross is an award-winning actress and producer best known for her roles in ABC’s award-winning comedy series BLACK-ISH and GIRLFRIENDS. For her role as Rainbow Johnson in BLACK-ISH, as a comedic leading actress, Ross won the Golden Globe Award in 2017 as well as nine NAACP Image Awards.

She was nominated for five Emmys and two Critics Choice Awards. Ross is the CEO and Founder of PATTERN Beauty, a award-winning haircare brand she launched in 2019 for the curly, coily and tight textured masses.Ross is executive producer and narrator of THE HAIR TALES, a docuseries about Black women, beauty and identity through the distinctive lens of Black hair. It debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s cable channel and on Hulu in October 2022. Ross recently produced a ten-episode podcast, I Am America, which aims to break through the noise during this divided time in our country in an effort to create space and to heal. Ross will star in and executive produce the animated MTV Entertainment Studios film JODIE, a spinoff of MTV’s iconic DARIA franchise.

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