Over the years, these famous Black women have appeared in films ranging from musicals to dramas to comedies. Some them have even received Academy Awards for their efforts, such as Viola Davis.
Who are some of the most famous African American actresses? Halle Berry made the cut. Kerry Washington is also among the top Black actresses on this list. Though she is best known for her role on Scandal, Washington has also appeared in films such as Django Unchained and Lakeview Terrace.
Let's compare them from when they were just at the beginning of their careers to now, to see how much they have changed.
#1 Zoë Kravitz
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Zoë Kravitz is an actress, singer, and model from the United States. She is the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet. In the romantic comedy flick No Reservations, she made her acting debut.
#2 Yara Shahidi
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Yara Sayeh Shahidi is a model and actress from the United States. She rose to prominence as Zoey Johnson, the oldest daughter on the sitcom Black-ish and its spin-off series Grown-ish. Her cinematic credits include the starring roles in Imagine That, Smallfoot, and The Sun Is Also a Star.
#3 Xosha Roquemore
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Xosha Kai Roquemore is an actress from the United States. She is well recognized for her roles in Precious as Jo Ann and The Mindy Project as Tamra.
#4 Whoopi Goldberg
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Whoopi Goldberg is an American actress, comedian, author, and television personality. She is one of 17 artists who have received the EGOT, which consists of an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award.
#5 Viola Davis
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Viola Davis is an actress and producer from the United States. She is the first African-American to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting, having won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards.
#6 Uzo Aduba
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Uzo Aduba is an actress from the United States. She is best recognized for playing Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.
#7 Tracee Ellis Ross
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Tracee Ellis Ross is a well-known American actress. She is most recognized for her roles as the lead in the television shows Girlfriends and Black-ish. She is the daughter of actress Diana Ross and Motown recording artist Robert Ellis Silberstein.
#8 Sanaa Lathan
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Sanaa Lathan is a well-known American actress. Her parents are actress Eleanor McCoy and film director Stan Lathan. Her career took off after she appeared on the television sitcoms In the House, Family Matters, NYPD Blue, and Moesha.
#9 Regina King
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Regina King is a filmmaker and actor from the United States. King rose to prominence after portraying Brenda Jenkins in the television series 227. Her other performances included the films Friday and The Boondocks, as well as the crime drama Southland.
#10 Queen Latifah
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Queen Latifah is a rapper, actor, and singer from the United States. Several media outlets have referred to Queen Latifah as the "Queen of Rap" and "rap's first feminist." Latifah is the first rapper to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
#11 Phylicia Rashad
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Phylicia Rashad is an actress, singer, and director from the United States. She is most known for her portrayal of Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, for which she received Emmy nods in 1985 and 1986. On Cosby, she also played Ruth Lucas.
#12 Octavia Spencer
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Octavia Lenora Spencer is an actress, author, and producer from the United States. Spencer made her cinematic debut in the drama A Time to Kill in 1996. Her breakthrough came in 2011, when she played a maid in The Help, for which she received multiple honors, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, after a decade of small roles in film and television.
#13 Nia Long
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Nia Long is an actress from the United States. She has won numerous awards, including three NAACP Image Awards and a Black Reel Award.
#14 Maya Rudolph
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Maya Khabira Rudolph is a stand-up comedian, actor, and singer from the United States. She joined the cast of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live in 2000 and later appeared in the films 50 First Dates, A Prairie Home Companion, and Idiocracy.
#15 Lupita Nyong’o
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Lupita Nyong'o is a Mexican-born Kenyan actress. She gained critical praise and became the first Afro-Latina to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey in Steve McQueen's biographical period movie 12 Years a Slave.
#16 Kerry Washington
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Kerry Washington is an actor, producer, and director from the United States. She rose to prominence as Olivia Pope, a crisis management expert, in the ABC drama series Scandal.
#17 Jada Pinkett Smith
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Jada Pinkett Smith is a talk show host and actress from the United States. She is the co-host of the Facebook Watch chat show Red Table Talk, for which she won a Daytime Emmy. In 2021, Time named her one of the 100 most important persons in the world.
#18 Issa Rae
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Issa Rae is an American actor, writer, producer, and comedian. Rae rose to prominence after appearing in the YouTube video series Awkward Black Girl.
#19 Halle Berry
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Halle Berry is an actress from the United States. She began her career as a model and competed in many beauty pageants, finishing first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and sixth in the Miss World pageant in 1986.
#20 Gabrielle Union
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Gabrielle Union is an actress from the United States. She began her career in television sitcoms in the 1990s before obtaining minor roles in the 1999 adolescent flicks She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You. Her breakthrough performance was in the teen flick Bring It On in 2000.
#21 Franchesca Ramsey
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Franchesca Leigh Ramsey, popularly known as Chescaleigh, is a comedian, activist, television and YouTube personality, and actor from the United States. She has been on MTV and MSNBC.
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Eve is a rapper, singer, actress, and television host from the United States. Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady, her debut album, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in 1999, becoming her the third female rapper to do so.
#23 Danai Gurira
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Danai Gurira is a dramatist and actor from the United States. Her most well-known performances include Michonne on the horror drama series The Walking Dead and Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero flicks Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
#24 Cicely Tyson
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Cicely Louise Tyson was an actress from the United States. She became noted for her portrayal of powerful African-American women in a career that spanned more than seven decades in cinema, television, and theater.
#25 Bianca Lawson
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Bianca Lawson is an American film and television actress. She is most recognized for her regular performances on the television shows Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Goode Behavior, Pretty Little Liars, and Rogue.
#26 Angela Bassett
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Angela Bassett is an actress, director, and producer from the United States. Following a few lesser appearances, notably Reva Styles in Boyz n the Hood (1991), Bassett had her breakthrough as singer Tina Turner in the biopic What's Love Got to Do with It (1993), for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.