Ruth E. Carter’s Costume Designs: From Honor to Culture to Creating Marvel Worlds


The Commonwealth Honors College welcomes groundbreaking presenters who work at the intersection of artistic practice, racial justice, and embodying change as pathways to liberation. This year, supported by the Williamson Lecture Funds, the focus is on visual storytelling within the African Diaspora and the Afro-Futurist movement. Learn about creative scholarship and how their work connects to today’s efforts to create a more inclusive world that centers black art and its critical impact.

Costume design visionary Ruth E. Carter will deliver the keynote address for the Commonwealth Honors College’s annual Black Heritage Month celebration on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Bowker Auditorium. Her talk, titled “From Honor to Culture to Creating Marvel Worlds: The Costume Designs of Ruth E. Carter,” will focus on visual storytelling within the African Diaspora and the Afro-Futurist movement.

Born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Carter was the 2019 Oscar winner in costume design for Marvel’s “BLACK PANTHER,” making history as the first African-American to win in the category. His costumes tell stories so intriguing and unforgettable that they influence music, fashion, culture and cinema: they help us understand ourselves better. Over a career spanning more than three decades in theatre, film and television, Carter has teamed up with some of the most prolific directors, from Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay to Ryan Coogler. She has over forty film credits, including two Oscar nominations for “MALCOLM X” (1993) and “AMISTAD” (1998), and an Emmy Award nomination for the TV miniseries reboot “ROOTS” (2016) . Carter became just the second costume designer, 60 years after the first, to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2021).

Carter is a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation and co-founder of the Mildred Blount Scholarship Fund, which was established to assist BIPOC costume designers. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts from Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia and an honorary doctorate from Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts.

The in-person event is open to the UMass Amherst community, and a live stream will be open to the public.

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