How Howard University is bringing diversity to Hollywood

SOURCE: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for WarnerMedia/AFP
Howard University alum and Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman speaks onstage during the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony in June.

By U2B Staff 

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Women and persons of colour may still remain underrepresented in Hollywood but recent studies have shown that recent and ongoing efforts have succeeded in moving the needle on diversity a little.

As films like Captain Marvel, Wonderwoman and Black Panther have demonstrated, no longer is the female or black superhero on the silver screen a novel idea; rather, representatives of minority communities across the US are increasingly being offered lead roles in high-grossing blockbusters. The same trend has been observed in off-camera roles, among directors, scriptwriters, TV show creators and the like.

Of course, the numbers remain a long way from achieving a proportionate representation of the US population. According to the annual Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA, while persons of colour make up 40 percent of the US population, they only make up a small portion of the workforce in the entertainment industry, representing 12.6 percent of writers and 7.8 percent of directors.

Howard University wants to help to even out the score a little. And as one of the nation’s premier historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the alma mater of famous Hollywood stars like Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman, the institution believes through education, it can.


The university has partnered up with Amazon Studios to launch “Howard Entertainment”, an innovative programme that aims to bring diversity to Hollywood by creating a pipeline for African-American students and other marginalised groups to train and study alongside entertainment executives.

The programme to begin in January 2020 will offer students a unique interdisciplinary curriculum, coupled with hands-on work experiences and networking with Amazon’s industry partners. 

“The vision of Howard Entertainment is to offer a one-of-a-kind experience for students interested in all aspects of entertainment, from project greenlighting, to PR and marketing, to entertainment law and finance,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick.

“Collaborating with Amazon Studios will enable us to marry academia and industry efforts to build a robust workforce of diverse entertainment industry leaders.

“With Howard’s proven track record of developing some of Hollywood’s most notable actors, comedians and musicians, this next-level collaboration will enable us to have even greater impact,” he added.


The Howard Entertainment programme is a two-semester experience that will take place in Los Angeles, California. Howard students will get to take academic courses during the spring semester and participate in a fellowship embedded in the entertainment industry during the summer semester.

“Amazon Studios has been working to create new pathways into the industry for talented students of all backgrounds and we are proud to team with Howard on this new programme supporting aspiring entertainment leaders” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. 

Amazon Studio Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Latasha Gillespie said the programme is about “intentionality”, which she described as being intentional about bringing diversity to Hollywood and the overall entertainment industry. 

To be selected for the programme, students would have to participate in a competitive process. They must be an upperclassman or graduate student of Howard, and will have to complete an application and an interview.

They will be taught by Howard faculty who will be supported by Amazon Studios employees and other industry professionals invited by Amazon.