Award-Winning Actress Angela Bassett Will Be Spelman College’s 2024 Keynote Speaker

Angela Bassett was the Guest Speaker at Morehouse College in May 2019.

ATLANTA (April 25, 2024) – Spelman College announced today that actress, director, and executive producer Angela Bassett will be the keynote speaker for the College’s 137th Commencement Ceremony and will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts honorary degree.

The College will also award an honorary degree – Doctor of Laws – to trailblazing Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, as well as a National Community Service Award to highly acclaimed Atlanta journalist Rose Scott during Commencement at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 19, at the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC). 

The renowned social justice minister Reverend Dr. Yvette Flunder will address graduates during the Baccalaureate Ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 18, also at the GICC.

Bassett, an Honorary Oscar recipient, is known for captivating performances in iconic films, such as Malcolm X, Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Black Panther, Mission Impossible: Fallout and What’s Love Got to Do With It, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Bassett returned as the beloved Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and received Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and NAACP Image Entertainer of the Year awards with Academy Award, SAG, and BAFTA nominations, as well as the Variety Creative Impact in Acting Award.

She is also the star and executive producer of the ABC/Disney hit drama 9-1-1, the recently released Netflix Originals blockbuster feature film Damsel, and is the narrator of the critically acclaimed NatGeo limited series Queens.

Bassett was named one of the Time 100 and Time Women of the Year in 2023, has earned multiple EMMY nominations, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a SAG Award, 16 NAACP Image Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and the Black Girls Rock! Icon Award and many more.

“Spelman College is honored to have acclaimed actress and director Angela Bassett to bring words of inspiration to our graduating Class of 2024,” said Spelman College President Helene D. Gayle, M.D., MPH.

“Her work has had a tremendous impact both on and off the screen and serves as an example for our students to lead in their own spaces. We are equally honored to have a slate of strong Black women join us for our weekend ceremonies, including Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Atlanta community icon Rose Scott, and the esteemed Reverend Dr. Yvette Flunder. We look forward to them inspiring our graduates, their families, and the Spelman community.”

The Class of 2024 includes 504 degree candidates, receiving 325 Bachelor of Arts and 179 Bachelor of Science degrees.

Class of 2024 Top Ten Scholars and Majors

Mika Keziah Campbell, co-Valedictorian, Mathematics

Nadia Scott, co-Valedictorian, History

Nailah Johnson, Salutatorian, Psychology

Alyssa Rodriguez, Biochemistry

Zoli Smith, Psychology

Beulah Andoh, Psychology

Kinka Kimfon, Health Science

Erin Grier, English

Rabiah Hubert, Psychology

Raegan Ewing, International Studies

2024 Honorary Degree
Ketanji Brown Jackson, associate justice, was born in Washington, D.C., on September 14, 1970. She received an A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1992, and a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996. She served as a law clerk for Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1996 to 1997, Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1997 to 1998, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1999 Term.

After three years in private practice, she worked as an attorney at the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2003 to 2005. From 2005 to 2007, she served as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., and from 2007 to 2010, she was in private practice. She served as a vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2010 to 2014. In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where she served from 2013 to 2021.

She was appointed to the Defender Services Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States in 2017, and the Supreme Court Fellows Commission in 2019. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2021 and then nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2022. She took her seat on June 30, 2022.

National Community Service Award
Spelman will also honor Rose Scott with the National Community Service Award for her almost two decades of public service as an award-winning journalist, a “curator of communication conversations” and a voice of accountability for local and national issues. Scott is the executive producer and host of the midday news program “Closer Look” broadcast on Atlanta’s NPR station, 90.1 FM – WABE. She joined WABE full-time in 2008. Prior to that, Scott began her public media career in 1999 at WCLK 91.9 FM at Clark Atlanta University.

“Closer Look” has become a signature broadcast for the community and brings together viewpoints from all sectors of society. In her role as executive producer and host, Scott has interviewed foreign heads of state, cabinet members, U.S. ambassadors, numerous consul generals, state and local elected officials as well as civic and social leaders.

Baccalaureate Ceremony
Reverend Dr. Yvette Flunder will serve as the speaker for the Baccalaureate Ceremony the day before Commencement. The Baccalaureate Ceremony is the final spiritual experience for Spelman College students. It provides the opportunity for the graduating class, along with their families and communities, to joyfully reflect on their spiritual growth and personal transformation as they prepare for Commencement on the following day.

Rev. Dr. Flunder founded the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in 1991. In 2003, Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity. Bishop Flunder is a graduate of the Certificate of Ministry and Master of Arts programs at Pacific School of Religion and received her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

She has also served as an adjunct professor and speaker at Pacific School of Religion and numerous seminaries and universities including Auburn, Brite Divinity, Chicago Theological, Columbia University, Drew, Duke, Eden, Howard, Lancaster, New York Theological and Yale.

For more information and to learn more about our speakers and Commencement activities, go to Schedule of Events (spelman.edu).

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