These women have made indelible impressions on the world of film and created unforgettable roles for women of color in Hollywood. From their earliest days in the 1920s to their most recent performances, these trailblazers transcend racial boundaries with every performance. The list reflects not just black female actors but also actresses who are biracial or multiracial.
The following 21 actresses are the “top black actresses of all time. This is a collection of real women on worldwide television, film, and theater screens; it is not an exhaustive or complete list.
Table of Contents
- 1. Viola Davis – American actress
- 2. Octavia Spencer
- 3. Cicely Tyson
- 4. Regina King
- 5. Lupita Nyong’o
- 6. Angela Bassett
- 7. Taraji P. Henson
- 8. Alfre Woodard
- 9. Thandiwe Newton
- 10. Nia Long
- 11. Regina Hall
- 12. Zoe Saldana
- 13. Queen Latifah
- 14. Halle Berry
- 15. Gabrielle Union
- 16. Kerry Washington
- 17. Phylicia Rashād
- 18. Rosario Dawson
- 19. Sanaa Lathan
- 20. Lynn Whitfield
- 21. Loretta Devine
1. Viola Davis – American actress
Viola Davis was born in 1965. She is an American actress and producer. In addition to her acting career, Davis is the founder and CEO of JuVee Productions and former president of the Screen Actors Guild. She is the third African-American to get an Academy Award for acting and the first black woman to win an Emmy and a Tony Award.
2. Octavia Spencer
Octavia Lenora Spencer was born in 1970. He is an American actress. She is one of Hollywood’s most adaptable performers and has been nominated for some honors, including the Academy Award. In the drama A Time to Kill from 1996, Spencer made her acting debut.
3. Cicely Tyson
Cicely Louise Tyson was born in 1924 – died in 2021. She was an American actress. During her 50-year career, Tyson received various awards, including three Emmy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Tony Award, an Honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award. Tyson garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder.
4. Regina King
Regina Beth King was born in 1971. She is an American actress and singer. King’s career has been highlighted by her depiction of a wide range of roles in television and film. She is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and four Primetime Emmy Awards, the most Primetime Emmy wins for an African-American performer, along with Alfre Woodard.
5. Lupita Nyong’o
In 1983, Lupita Amondi Nyong’o was born in Mexico. She is a Kenyan-Mexican actress. Her portrayal of “12 Years a Slave” in 2013 got her Academy and SAG nods, and at the 2014 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, she took home the Best Supporting Actress prize.
6. Angela Bassett
Angela Evelyn Bassett was born in 1958. She is an American actress and politician. Bassett began her career in the American entertainment industry as a child model. She rose to prominence for her portrayal of Tina Turner in the biographical film “What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1993), which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress nomination, among others.
7. Taraji P. Henson
Taraji Penda Henson was born in 1970. She is an American actress and singer. She is known for her portrayal of Cookie Lyon on the Fox television series “Empire”, for which she has received four NAACP Image Award nominations for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, winning twice and a Golden Globe Award nomination.
8. Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard was born in 1952. . She is an actress from the USA. In addition to nominations for an Academy Award and two Grammy Awards, she has won some honors, including four Primetime Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Primetime Emmy Awards.
9. Thandiwe Newton
Melanie Thandiwe Newton was born in 1972. She is an English actress. Newton has received various awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award and a British Academy Film Award, in addition to nominations for two Golden Globes Awards. She was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to film and charity.
10. Nia Long
Nia Talita Long was born in 1970. She is an American actress. Long rose to prominence after starring in the film Boyz n the Hood and playing the role of Beulah “Lisa” Wilkes on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She then starred in Friday and the 1997 films Love Jones and Soul Food.
11. Regina Hall
Regina Lee Hall was born in 1970. She is an actress from the USA. She is primarily well-known for her appearances in movies like “The Best Man,” “The Scariest Movie 3,” “A Lot Like Love,” and its follow-up, “Think Like a Man.” In 2004 she was a star in the hit comedy film “Barbershop” with Ice Cube, Eve, and Anthony Anderson. She appeared in “The Terminal,” a box office smash starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, the year after.
12. Zoe Saldana
Zoë Yadira Saldaña-Perego was born in 1978. She is an American actress. She has been in several movies and TV series. . She is well recognized for her parts in movies like “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Avatar,” and its sequels, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Star Trek,” and “The Losers Club”. In 2010 she starred in the science fiction film “Star Trek.” The following year, she played a supporting role in “Green Lantern.”
13. Queen Latifah
Dana Elaine Owens was born in 1970. She known professionally as Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, actress, and singer. She is best known for starring in the film “Hairspray,” which was the first film to win both the Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Picture. She also acted in the Academy Award-winning film “Chicago” and received an Emmy in 1994 for her work on the television series NYPD Blue as Detective Odell Taylor’s wife.
14. Halle Berry
Halle Maria Berry was born in 1966. She is an American actress and former fashion model. . She is well recognized for her parts in movies like “Monster’s Ball”, “Die Another Day”, “Gothika”, “X-Men”,” Cloud Atlas”, and the television miniseries “and its sequel, “.
15. Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Monique Union Witherspoon was born in 1972. She is a former model and American actor. She is best known for her roles in films such as “Bring It On”, “Bad Boys II”, “Crank: High Voltage” and its sequel”,” The Brothers”, “Think Like a Man”, “Top Five”,” Top Five”.
16. Kerry Washington
Kerry Marisa Walschots was born in 1977. She is an American singer, actor, and producer. She is best known for her role as Olivia Pope on the ABC series “Scandal”, for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. She also starred in the Paramount Pictures film “Shine” and co-starred with Denzel Washington in the film “The Great Debaters”.
17. Phylicia Rashād
Phylicia Ayers-Allen was born in 1948. She is an American actress. She was known for her roles as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–92) and Maya Gallo on the ABC sitcom The Hughleys (1998–2002). She has won two Emmy Awards and received a Tony Award nomination.
18. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Isabel Dawson was born in 1977 in New York City. She is an American actress known for her roles in television, film, and theater. Her significant roles were He Got Game, Josie and the Pussycats, Men in Black II, Rent Sin City, Clerks II, Death Proof, Seven Pounds, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
19. Sanaa Lathan
Sanaa McCoy Lathan was born in 1971. She is an American actress. She is best known for her roles in the movies “The Best Man”, “He Got Game”, “Love & Basketball,” and its sequel,” Brown Sugar”.
20. Lynn Whitfield
Lynn Whitfield was born in 1953. She is an American producer and performer on television. She won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. She received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her breakout performance as Josephine Baker in the HBO biographical film The Josephine Baker Story.
21. Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine was born in 1949. She is an American actress in numerous television, stage, and film productions. Her most high-profile roles include Lorrell Robinson in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, the long-suffering Gloria Matthews in the film Waiting to Exhale, and her recurring role as Adele Webber on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2011.