Women's History at Yale University: A native of New York City, double Yalie Angela Bassett (YC '80, YSD '83) grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Bassett’s mother Betty, a single mother and social worker, stressed the importance of education for her children. On a high school trip, Bassett became inspired to act after seeing a Kennedy Center production of the classic story "Of Mice and Men," starring James Earl Jones.
Excerpt from “Angela Bassett’s Aha! Moment:”
“From the time I was in first grade, I knew I was going to college. I didn't even know what college was back then, but my mother made it clear to my sister and me that going to one was a given. She was a single parent who hadn't taken high school seriously. She now knew that emphasizing education was the key to our futures, and she wouldn't allow us to compromise them by settling for less than a college degree…"*
With the assistance of an academic scholarship, Bassett matriculated into Yale University. In 1980, she received her B.A. in African-American studies. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama. While there, she studied under the renowned stage director Lloyd Richards, who cast her in the Broadway productions of two August Wilson plays: "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and Joe Turner's "Come and Gone." It was at Yale that Bassett met her husband, Courtney B. Vance, a 1986 graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Bassett gained recognition in the films “Boyz n the Hood” (1991) and “Malcolm X” (1992). She has built her career around playing some of the most celebrated real-life, pioneering black women of the twentieth century. She was Oscar-nominated and won both the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture for her star-making performance as Tina Turner/Anna Mae Bullock in “What's Love Got to Do with It” (1993). She won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her work as the late-Dr. Betty Shabazz (widow of the slain civil rights pioneer Malcolm X) in Spike Lee's “Malcolm X” (1992). She also portrayed Katherine Jackson in the 1992 ABC miniseries “The Jacksons: An American Dream.” Her first and only Emmy nomination to date was for her lead role in “The Rosa Parks Story” (2002).