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Spelman College will name a renovated theatre, lobby, dressing rooms, and supporting areas the LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson Performing Arts Center, according to a press release this week.
Located in the John D. Rockefeller Fine Arts Building, the updated arts center is being made possible by a lead gift from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation along with donations from Richardson Jackson and Jackson, Bank of America, and David Rockefeller Jr.
“At the height of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s, actress-producer-director LaTanya Richardson Jackson, C’71, was honing her significant talents on the stage of the Baldwin Burroughs Theatre in Spelman’s John D. Rockefeller Fine Arts Building,” according to the release. She performed, alongside then Morehouse College student, Samuel Jackson, as a member of the Morehouse Spelman Players in productions like “The Sale” by Pearl Cleage, C’71.
“The love that both LaTanya and Sam continue to exhibit for Spelman since their time on stage decades ago is heartwarming,” Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman, said. “These living legends met and acted together on stage on our campus. Their dedication to their artistry will leave a legacy that will inspire students in the Atlanta University Center for years to come. We are grateful for their gift and that of the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, Bank of America, and David Rockefeller, Jr. to renovate the space where these beloved talents got their start. Pioneers and leaders in producing important stories, LaTanya and Sam’s excellence will forever resonate in the arts center named for them.”
Richardson Jackson and Jackson both performed leading roles with the Morehouse Spelman Players on Spelman’s theatrical stage in the 1970s. They were directed by Spelman drama professor Baldwin W. Burroughs, Ph.D., for whom the stage is named, as well as award-winning playwrights, Carlton W. Molette, Ph.D., and Barbara Molette, Ph.D. Richardson Jackson spent time in programs on Spelman’s campus as a high school student before becoming an undergraduate.
Richardson Jackson is an accomplished actress of stage and screen, who served as The Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theater at Fordham University and has received critical praise, as well as a Tony Award Best Actress Nomination for her performance as Lena Younger in the 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” the Lily Award for Broadway Excellence for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and the Lincoln Center Theater Award for “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.”
Her extensive New York theater credits include “For Colored Girls…,” “Spell #7,” “Casanova,” “The Trail of Dr. Beck,” “From the Mississippi Delta,” “Stop Reset” and August Wilson’s 20th Century cycle at the Kennedy Center. Her film and television credits include “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Fighting Temptations,” “Dorothy Dandridge,” the Netflix series “Luke Cage,” HBO’s “Show Me A Hero,” for which she received a NAACP Image Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Blue Bloods,” “U.S. Marshalls,” “Freedomland,” “Losing Isaiah,” “Malcolm X,” “Mother and Child,” “The Watson Go to Birmingham” and Sidney Lumet’s critically acclaimed “100 Centre Street.” She was the narrator for the award-winning documentary on Lorraine Hansberry, “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.” Richardson Jackson and Jackson are the proud producers of the internationally awarded documentary “Enslaved,” streaming now on EPIX.
During his years at Morehouse, Samuel L. Jackson was a member of the Morehouse Spelman Players, starring in “The Three Penny Opera,” “Perry’s Mission,” “The Sale” and Dr. B. S. Black.” After college he spent a decade in New York City appearing on stage at The Public Theater, The Billie Holiday Theater, the New Federal Theater, and with the Negro Ensemble Company, where he originated the role of Pvt. Henson in “A Soldier’s Play.”
He created the role of Boy Willie in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” and Wolfe in Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” at Yale Repertory Theatre. Widely recognized as one of the most prolific actors working, Jackson has won several acting awards around the world, including a Special Best Supporting Actor Award of Excellence at The Cannes Film Festival for “Jungle Fever” – a Spike Lee Joint! He has a BAFTA Award, numerous NAACP Awards, three Golden Globe nominations, and the Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for “Pulp Fiction.” He has been named the highest-grossing actor of all time.
He has appeared in more than 100 films, including “Star Wars,” “Coming to America,” “Do the Right Thing,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Snakes on A Plane,” “Glass,” “A Time to Kill,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “Shaft,” “The Banker,” and as Nick Fury for the Disney Marvel franchise. Jackson was the narrator for the acclaimed documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on the writings of James Baldwin and he has also lent his voice to memorable advertisements, video games, audio books, and animated films like the “Incredibles” series.