IMDb: Top 50 Best Black Actresses of All Time – a list by cmart514

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on November 13, 1955. Her mother, Emma (Harris), was a teacher and a nurse, and her father, Robert James Johnson, Jr., was a clergyman. Whoopi’s recent ancestors were from Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. She worked in a funeral parlor and as a bricklayer while taking small parts on Broadway…
“ Notable Screen Performances:

-Sarafina
-Ghost (Academy-Award Winning Performance)
-Corina, Corina
-Sister Act
-The Color Purple ” – cmart514

Image of Angela Bassett
2.
Angela Bassett

Captivating, gifted, and sensational, Angela Bassett’s presence has been felt in theaters, stages, and television screens throughout the world. Angela Evelyn Bassett was born on August 16, 1958 in New York City, to Betty Jane (Gilbert), a social worker, and Daniel Benjamin Bassett, a preacher’s son…
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Waiting to Exhale
-What’s Love Got to Do With It
-The Score
-How Stella Got Her Groove Back
-Boyz In the Hood ” – cmart514

Image of Cicely Tyson
3.
Cicely Tyson

Actress, The Help
Cicely Tyson was born in Harlem, New York City, where she was raised by her devoutly religious parents, from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Her mother, Theodosia, was a domestic, and her father, William Tyson, was a carpenter and painter. She was discovered by a fashion editor at Ebony magazine and…
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Sounder
-The Help ” – cmart514

Image of Alfre Woodard
5.
Alfre Woodard

Actress, Primal Fear
Alfre Woodard was born on November 8, 1952 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the youngest of three children of Constance, a homemaker, and Marion H. Woodard, an interior designer. She was named by her godmother, who claimed she saw a vision of Alfre’s name in written out in gold letters. A former high school cheerleader and track star…
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Passion Fish
-Crooklyn
-Down In the Delta
-Love & Basketball ” – cmart514

Image of Diahann Carroll
6.
Diahann Carroll

Actress, Claudine
One of television’s premier African-American series stars, elegant actress, singer and recording artist Diahann Carroll was born Carol Diann (or Diahann) Johnson on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York. The first child of John Johnson, a subway conductor, and Mabel Faulk Johnson, music was an important part of her life as a child…
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Claudine
-Eve’s Bayou
-Carmen Jones ” – cmart514

Image of Dorothy Dandridge
7.
Dorothy Dandridge

Actress, Carmen Jones
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ruby Dandridge (née Ruby Jean Butler), an entertainer, and Cyril H. Dandridge, a cabinet maker and minister. Under the prodding of her mother, Dorothy and her sister Vivian Dandridge began performing publicly, usually in black Baptist churches throughout the country…
Image of Halle Berry
8.
Halle Berry

Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Jerome Jesse Berry, was African-American, and worked as a hospital attendant. Her mother, Judith Ann (Hawkins), who is Caucasian, has English and German ancestry, and is a retired psychiatric nurse. Halle has an older sister named Heidi Berry
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Losing Isaiah
-Boomerang
-Monster’s Ball
-Frankie & Alice
-Things We Lost in the Fire ” – cmart514

Image of Ethel Waters
9.
Ethel Waters

The child of a teenage rape victim, Ethel Waters grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time. “No one raised me, ” she recollected, “I just ran wild.” She excelled not only at looking after herself, but also at singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions…
Image of Viola Davis
10.
Viola Davis

Actress, The Help
Actress Viola Davis was born on her grandmother’s farm, at the then-Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina. When she was two months old her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her father, Dan Davis, worked as a horse groomer and trainer. Her mother, Mary Alice (Logan), a maid and factory worker…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-The Help
-Antwone Fisher
-Doubt ” – cmart514

Image of Lonette McKee
11.
Lonette McKee

Actress, Malcolm X
Lonette McKee’s career began in the music industry in hometown Detroit, Michigan as a child prodigy, where she began playing keyboards composing music and lyrics, singing and performing professionally at a young age. At fourteen she recorded her first record, “Stop Don’t Worry ‘Bout It” which became an instant regional Pop/R&B hit…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Sparkle
-Jungle Fever ” – cmart514

Image of Pam Grier
12.
Pam Grier

Actress, Jackie Brown
Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem, NC, one of four children of Gwendolyn Sylvia (Samuels), a nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier Jr., an Air Force mechanic. Pam has been a major African-American star from the early 1970s. Her career started in 1971, when Roger Corman of New World Pictures launched her with The Big Doll House
Image of Beah Richards
13.
Beah Richards

Beah Richards left her native Vicksburg, Mississippi, for New York City in 1950. She would not acquire a significant role on stage until 1955, when she appeared in the off-Broadway show “Take A Giant Step” convincingly portraying an 84-year-old grandmother without using theatrical makeup. In 1962 she…
Image of Kimberly Elise
14.
“ Notable Film Performances:

-Woman Thou Art Loosed
-Set It Off
-For Colored Girls
-Diary of a Mad Black Woman
-The Manchurian Candidate ” – cmart514

Image of Juanita Moore
15.
Juanita Moore

African American actress Juanita Moore entered films in the early 1950s, a time in which few black people were given an opportunity to act in major studio films. Fortunately Moore’s roles began improving as Hollywood developed a social consciousness toward the end of the decade. In 1959 she received an Academy Award nomination for her performance inImitation of Life
Image of Lynn Whitfield
16.
Lynn Whitfield

Actress, Stepmom
With roots that lead back to Louisiana southern aristocracy, lovely leading lady Lynn Whitfield was born in 1953, the eldest of four children and a third-generation BFA graduate from Howard University. Her dentist father was instrumental in developing Lynn’s initial interest in acting as he was a prime figure in forming community theater in her native Baton Rouge…
Image of Taraji P. Henson
17.
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Baby Boy
-Talk to Me
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
-Hustle & Flow ” – cmart514

Image of Queen Latifah
18.
Queen Latifah

Often considered hip-hop’s first lady (though some would attribute that to Roxanne Shanté), the woman behind the moniker Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens on March 18th, 1970, in East Orange, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Rita (Bray), a teacher, and Lancelot Owens, Sr. She came from a police family–both her father and older brother were cops…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Set It Off
-The Secret Life of Bees
-Chicago
-Bringing Down the House
-Hairspray ” – cmart514

Image of Lena Horne
21.
Lena Horne

Lena Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. In her biography she stated that on the day she was born, her father was in the midst of a card game trying to get money to pay the hospital costs. Her parents divorced while she was still a toddler. Her mother left later in order to find work as an actress and Lena was left in the care of her grandparents…
Image of Butterfly McQueen
22.
Butterfly McQueen

Thelma McQueen attended public school in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from high school in Long Island, New York. She studied dance with Katherine Dunham, Geoffrey Holder, andJanet Collins. She danced with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group. The “Butterfly” stage name, which does describe her constantly moving arms…
Image of Vanessa Williams
24.
Vanessa Williams

Actress, Eraser
Vanessa Lynn Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment today. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television and motion pictures. She has sold millions of albums worldwide and she has achieved critical acclaim as an actress on stage, in film and on television…
Image of S. Epatha Merkerson
25.
S. Epatha Merkerson

A native of Michigan, S. Epatha Merkerson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University. In 1978, she moved to New York City to apply her craft on stage. Although best known since 1993 as the smart and shrewd Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the long-running TV crime drama Law & Order
Image of Regina King
26.
Regina King

Actress, Ray
Regina King was born in Los Angeles, California, to Gloria, a special education teacher, and Thomas King, an electrician. She began her career in the television show 227, followed by a role in Boyz n the Hood. She began to be recognized by a mainstream audience after her role as Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s character’s wife in Jerry Maguire
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Poetic Justice
-Ray
-Down to Earth ” – cmart514

Image of Debbi Morgan
28.
Debbi Morgan

Actress, The Hurricane
Debbie Morgan was born September 20, 1956 in Dunn, North Carolina, to Lora and George Morgan, Jr., she moved to New York City when she was three months old. Debbie’s earliest film role was in Cry Uncle . She played the role of Olga Winter. Her most memorable role was on the television series All My Children
Image of CCH Pounder
29.
CCH Pounder

Actress, Avatar
CCH Pounder (the CCH standing for Carol Christine Hilaria, her birth name). As can be said of other similarly styled actresses such as Alfre Woodard and Cicely Tyson, most of Pounder’s characters are enriched with these same positive attributes and it is a testament to this actress’ abilities that she continues on such a high plane in a nearly three-decade career…
Image of Diana Ross
31.
Diana Ross

Best known as the the lead singer of the popular 1960s singing group The Supremes, Diana Ernestine Earle Ross was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan, the second of six children of African-American parents Ernestine Lillian (Moten), a schoolteacher, and Fred Earl Ross, who served in the army…
Image of Kerry Washington
32.
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Ray
-The Dead Girl
-The Last King of Scotland
-For Colored Girls
-Night Catches Us ” – cmart514

Image of Jennifer Hudson
33.
Jennifer Hudson

Soundtrack, Dreamgirls
Jennifer Hudson is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress and best-selling author. Bright and booming talent Hudson is a perfect example of how NOT winning the title of American Idol can actually be a boon to your career and not necessarily the end of a childhood dream…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-The Secret Life of Bees
-Dreamgirls ” – cmart514

Image of Jurnee Smollett-Bell
34.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Jurnee Smollett-Bell was born on October 1, 1986 in New York City, New York, USA as Jurnee Diana Smollett. She is an actress, known for her role as Jess Merriweather on the Emmy Award winning TV series, Friday Night Lights (2011). She is also known for her roles in The Great Debaters (2007), Eve’s Bayou (1997)…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Eve’s Bayou
-The Great Debaters ” – cmart514

Image of Oprah Winfrey
35.
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, a former maid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner, barber, and city councilman. While Winfrey has been cited as the richest African American of the 20th century, she does not come from a rich, or even middle class, family…
Image of Mo'Nique
36.
Mo’Nique

Actress, Precious
Monique received a standing ovation when she stepped on stage for the first time in the hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, giving her confidence to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After numerous stand-up performances, she took a leap forward with one of the starring roles in The Parkers. …
Image of Irma P. Hall
37.
Image of Thandie Newton
38.
Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton was born in London. Thandie is mixed race, the daughter of a black Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha, a health-care worker from the Shona tribe, and Nick Newton, a white British father who worked as a lab technician. She lived in Zambia until political unrest caused her family to move back to the UK…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Beloved
-Crash
-The Pursuit of Happyness
-For Colored Girls ” – cmart514

Image of Nicole Beharie
39.
Nicole Beharie

Actress, Shame
She made her feature film debut in the 2008 film American Violet,where she played the leading role. Also in the same year she played Sarah Ward in the American sports film, The Express opposite actor Rob Brown. In the Lifetime movie, Sins of the Mother (2010), Beharie portrayed Shay Hunter, a struggling…
Image of Zoe Saldana
40.
Zoe Saldana

Actress, Avatar
Zoe Saldana was born on June 19, 1978 in Passaic, New Jersey, to Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña. She was raised in Queens, New York. When she was 10 years old, she and her family moved to the Dominican Republic where they would live for the next seven years. While living in the Dominican Republic…
“ Notable Film Roles:

-Star Trek
-Guess Who
-Columbiana
-Avatar ” – cmart514

Image of Nia Long
42.
Nia Long

Stunning pop culture icon, Hollywood leading lady and three-time NAACP award winner Nia Long returns to the big screen this fall in the highly anticipated Universal Pictures sequel The best man holiday (in theaters November 15th) where she reunites with original castmates Taye Diggs (“Private Practice”)…
Image of Nina Mae McKinney
43.
Nina Mae McKinney

Actress, Hallelujah
Nina Mae McKinney is known as the seductress “Chick” fromHallelujah, the first all-black, all-sound musical. Even though she was acknowledged as a great actress, singer and dancer by audiences in the U.S. and Europe, today she is mostly forgotten. She certainly had the looks, enthusiasm, and acting talent to succeed…
Image of Sanaa Lathan
45.
Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa Lathan, pronounced Sa-NAA, “like Sinatra without the tra”, was born on September 19, 1971, in New York, as her mother Eleanor McCoy performed on Broadway with the likes of Eartha Kitt, and her father Stan Lathan worked behind the scenes in television for PBS. She was exposed to the life of entertainment and stars at a very early age…
Image of Octavia Spencer
46.
Octavia Spencer

Actress, The Help
Spencer is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, which she claims is the proverbial buckle of the Bible belt. She’s the sixth of seven siblings and holds a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. A “closet” lover of acting, this practical Alabamian knew that she’d someday work in the film industry, but never dreamed it would be in front of the camera…

Source: IMDb: Top 50 Best Black Actresses of All Time – a list by cmart514

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