30 outstanding black actresses you should educate yourself about

30 outstanding black actresses you should educate yourself about

It takes hard work, persistence, patience, and self-confidence to make it in the film and entertainment industry. People of colour sometimes have more challenging journeys because of the prevailing racial biases. Today, we have outstanding black actresses who have overcome various challenges to gain global respect and admiration.

black actresses
A collage of some outstanding black actresses you should know in 2022. Photo: @im.angelabassett, @kerrywashington, @lynnwhitfield, @queenlatifah, @alfrewoodard, @gabunion (modified by author)
Source: Instagram

Many black actresses can attest that their careers have not always been smooth sailing. However, their passion for acting has kept them going. In the contemporary world, the representation of people of colour in Hollywood has improved because the stakeholders have tried to diversify leading roles. Even so, women and people of colour are still underrepresented behind the scenes.

Outstanding black actresses you should know

Who are the iconic black actress you should know in 2022, and what makes them outstanding? Read on to discover who they are, their ages, and their achievements.

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30. Salli Richardson

black actresses
Salli Richardson Whitfield attends Mekhi Phifer And Inny Clemons' event at Mekhi Phifer's house in Los Angeles, California. Photo: @Vivien Killilea/WireImage
Source: Getty Images

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  • Date of birth: 23rd November 1967
  • Place of birth: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
  • Credits: 66
  • Award: 1

Salli Richardson-Whitfield is a talented actress, director, producer, and writer who has been in the industry for over three decades now. She has been cast in over 20 major motion pictures, and her career continues to soar.

29. Keke Palmer

famous black actresses
Keke Palmer attends Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer Research Angel Ball 2019 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Photo @Steven Ferdman/ AFP
Source: Getty Images
  • Date of birth: 26th August 1993
  • Place of birth: Harvey, Illinois, United States of America
  • Credits: 100
  • Awards: 11

Keke Palmer is one of the top young black actresses in contemporary Hollywood. The actress debuted on the big screen in Barbershop 2: Back in Business and has been unstoppable since then.

28. Vivica A. Fox

beautiful black actresses
Vivica A. Fox posing for a picture in a red dress and floral cover-up. Photo: @msvfox
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 30th July 1964
  • Place of birth: South Bend, Indiana, USA
  • Credits: 228
  • Awards: 6

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Some of Vivica Fox's first big-screen roles were on Generations, Days of Our Lives, and The Young and the Restless. The actress is considered a Hollywood legend because she has been cast in over 200 movies and television shows.

27. Kimberly Elise

beautiful black actresses
Kimberly Elise attends the 10th Annual Heroes in the Struggle Gala at the Avalon in Hollywood, California. Photo: @Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage
Source: Getty Images
  • Date of birth: 17th April 1967
  • Place of birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America
  • Credits: 44
  • Awards: 15

Kimberly Elise is best known for her roles in The Manchurian Candidate, For Colored Girls, and Almost Christmas. She debuted on the big screen in 1995 in the television series In the House. She has a loveable personality, and fans love how well she fits into various roles.

26. Jada Pinkett Smith

beautiful black actresses
Jada Pinkett Smith posing for a selfie in a red and blue outfit. Photo: @jadapinkettsmith
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 18th September 1971
  • Place of birth: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Credits: 51
  • Awards: 9

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Jada Pinkett Smith and her famous husband, Will Smith, are the ultimate Hollywood couple. She started taking professional acting roles in 1990. Her first role was in Moe's World as Natalie. Besides acting, she is also a writer, director, and producer.

25. Meagan Good

young black actresses
Meagan Good posing for a picture in a green dress. Photo: @meagangood
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 8th August 1981
  • Place of birth: Panorama City, California, USA
  • Credits: 83
  • Awards: 1

Meagan Good has grown up in the limelight. She got her first acting role in Gabriel's Fire when she was barely 10. Since then, she has starred in many movies and television shows and is a household name in Hollywood. She is also a producer, writer, and director.

24. Rosario Dawson

famous black actresses
Rosario Dawson at the 2022 SAG awards. Photo: @rosariodawson
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 9th May 1979
  • Place of birth: New York City, New York, USA
  • Credits: 128
  • Awards: 14

Rosario Dawson has starred in more movies than television shows. She has been in over 120 films and series and has effortlessly portrayed different characters on the big screen. Besides acting, she is a producer and director.

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23. Phylicia Rashad

black actresses
Phylicia Rashad poses with her Tony award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for the play "A Raisin In The Sun" at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Photo: @Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg
Source: Getty Images
  • Date of birth: 19th June 1948
  • Place of birth: Houston, Texas, USA
  • Credits: 80
  • Awards: 15

Phylicia Rashad is an actress and producer who started her career in 1972. She has been in the industry for five decades and has portrayed numerous characters in different movies and television shows. Her career has inspired many younger women of colour to become actresses.

22. Naomie Harris

famous black actresses
Naomie Harris posing for a picture in a white outfit. Photo: @naomieharris
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 6th September 1976
  • Place of birth: London, England, United Kingdom
  • Credits: 49
  • Awards: 25

Naomie Harris is an English actress with one Oscar nomination. She showed interest in acting at a tender age, and her mother supported her talent. She started taking professional roles in 1987. Her first job was on Simon and the Witch as Joyce.

21. Vanessa Williams

beautiful black actresses
Vanessa Williams posing for a picture in a glittering dress and shoes. Photo: @vanessawilliamsofficial
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 18th March 1963
  • Place of birth: Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
  • Credits: 111
  • Awards: 13

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Vanessa Williams is another household name in contemporary Hollywood. The actress has featured in over 100 television shows and movies. She started her career at 17, with her first role being on A Capitol Fourth. Besides acting, she is a producer.

20. Loretta Devine

beautiful black actresses
Loretta Devine posing for a picture in a purple outfit. Photo: @lodivadevine
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 21st August 1949
  • Place of birth: Houston, Texas, USA
  • Credits: 169
  • Awards: 22, including 1 Primetime Emmy

Loretta Devine is a graceful actress who has starred in numerous theatre, film, and television productions. She first captured attention when she portrayed the character of Lorrell in Dreamgirls, a Michael Bennett classic Broadway musical.

19. Zendaya

black actresses under 30
Zendaya's outfit for the 2022 NAACP Image Awards. Photo: @zendaya
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 1st September 1996
  • Place of birth: Oakland, California, United States of America
  • Credits: 48
  • Awards: 18, including 1 Primetime Emmy

Zendaya is one of the most inspiring black actresses under 30. She started acting professionally in 2011 when she was about 15 years old. The 25-year-old star has featured in 48 movies and series, including Euphoria, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Malcolm & Marie, The OA, and K.C. Undercover.

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18. Queen Latifah

famous black actresses
Queen Latifah in a white top and grey jacket. Photo: @queenlatifah
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 18th March 1970
  • Place of birth: Newark, New Jersey, United States of America
  • Credits: 48
  • Awards: 35

Queen Latifah, also known as hip-hop's first lady, is a talented black woman known and respected worldwide. In January 2006, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, for her work.

17. Lynn Whitfield

beautiful black actresses
Lynn Whitfield posing for a picture in a brown top. Photo: @mslynnwhitfield
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 15th February 1953
  • Place of birth: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
  • Credits: 106
  • Awards: 11

Lynn Whitfield is a talented actor and producer. She started her career about 41 years ago in Hill Street Blues. Over the years, she has bagged many acting roles, some of which have won her awards and made her famous.

16. Gabrielle Union

young black actresses
Gabrielle Union in a beautiful African head wrap. Photo: @gabunion
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 29th October 1972
  • Place of birth: Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America
  • Credits: 87
  • Awards: 8

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Gabrielle Union is recognised as one of the talented and beautiful black actresses of this century. She has been in the industry since 1993, and some of her movies and TV shows are Malibu Shores, Goode Behaviour, Sister, Sister, She's All That, Clueless, Army Wives, and Being Mary Jane.

15. Tessa Thompson

young black actresses
Tessa Thompson posing for a picture at The Costume Institute. Photo: @tessamaethompson
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 3rd October 1983
  • Place of birth: Los Angeles, California, United States of America
  • Credits: 66
  • Awards: 19

Tessa Thompson started her professional career in Here Comes Dr. Tran in 2003. However, her big break was in Tina Mabry's 2009 film Mississippi Damned. Besides acting, she is a singer, songwriter, and producer.

14. Nia Long

beautiful black actresses
Nia Long posing for a picture in a black and white outfit. Photo: @iamnialong
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 30th October 1970
  • Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York, USA
  • Credits: 69
  • Awards: 7

Nia Long is a three-time NAACP award winner. Some of the films and series she has starred in are #BlackAF, The Banker, NCIS: Los Angeles, Empire, Dear White People, Hand of God, Beaches, and Uncle Buck.

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13. Sanaa Lathan

beautiful black actresses
Sanaa Lathan in a beautiful white halter-neck dress. Photo: @sanaalathan
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 19th September 1971
  • Place of birth: New York City, New York, USA
  • Credits: 49
  • Awards: 11

Sanaa Lathan's most recent acting roles were in Succession, Hit & Run, With/in: Volume 1, Solos, Family Guy, and Harley Quinn. She is the daughter of actress Eleanor McCoy, who introduced her to the film and television industry at a tender age. Besides acting, she is a producer and director.

12. Alfre Woodard

beautiful black actresses
Alfre Woodard posing for a picture at a past photoshoot. Photo: @realalfrewoodard
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 8th November 1952
  • Place of birth: Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  • Credits: 129
  • Awards: 36

Alfre Woodard is an Oscar-award nominee. She discovered her passion for acting after a nun persuaded her to audition for a school play. In 1978, she made her first appearance on the big screen when she played the role of Lucy Smith in The Trial of the Moke.

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11. Octavia Spencer

black actresses
Octavia Spencer posing for a picture in a black outfit. Photo: @octaviaspencer
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 25th May 1970
  • Place of birth: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
  • Credits: 141
  • Awards: 39, including an Oscar

Octavia Spencer is a multi-award winning actress, director, and producer. Some of her latest jobs have been in Truth Be Told, Encounter, Thunder Force, Superintelligence, The Witches, and Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.

10. Lupita Nyong'o

young black actresses
Lupita Nyong'o in a yellow dress. Photo: @lupitanyongo
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 1st March 1983
  • Place of birth: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
  • Credits: 26
  • Awards: 98, including an Oscar

Lupita Nyong'o is one of the most outstanding black actresses under 40. The 39-year-old started acting in her childhood, but her first professional role was in 2008. She won an Oscar for portraying the character of Nakia in Black Panther.

9. Regina Hall

famous black actresses
Regina Hall at the 2019 MET Gala. Photo: @morereginahall
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 12th December 1970
  • Place of birth: Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  • Credits: 58
  • Awards: 8

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Regina Hall has featured in numerous series and films, including Nine Perfect Strangers, Black Monday, Shaft, The Hate U Give, Insecure, Black-ish, Uncle Buck, and Second Generation Wayans. She is also a producer.

8. Kerry Washington

famous black actresses
Kerry Washington posing for a selfie. Photo: @kerrywashington
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 31st January 1977
  • Place of birth: The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
  • Credits: 59
  • Awards: 20, including a Primetime Emmy

Kerry Washington is best known as Olivia Pope from Scandal. She is a multi-talented woman of colour who also has producer and director credits. Kerry started her acting career in 1994 when she featured in ABC Afterschool Specials.

7. Taraji P. Henson

black actresses
Taraji P. Henson in a black dress. Photo: @tarajiphenson
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 11th September 1970
  • Place of birth: Washington DC, USA
  • Credits: 73
  • Awards: 36, including an Oscar

Taraji P. Henson is among the famous black actresses of this century. She is best known as Cookie from the television series Empire. Many fans know her as a loving but strict woman. Other shows she has featured include The Division, Boston Legal, Eli Stone, and Person of Interest.

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6. Halle Berry

beautiful black actresses
Halle Berry at the Critics Choice Awards. Photo: @halleberry
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 14th August 1966
  • Place of birth: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  • Credits: 61
  • Awards: 46, including an Oscar

Halle Berry is best known for starring in Monster's Ball and the X-Men films. She debuted on the big screen in Living Dolls in 1989. Her hard work, passion, and willingness to learn have made her one of Hollywood's best actresses of colour.

5. Regina King

famous black actresses
Regina King at a Vanity Fair photoshoot. Photo: @iamreginaking
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 15th January 1971
  • Place of birth: Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Credits: 56
  • Awards: 80, including one Oscar

Regina King started her career when she was about 19 years old. Her first role was in 227. She has starred in numerous TV shows and films over the years. She is an outstanding actress because of her ability to portray different characters with finesse.

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4. Zoe Saldana

black actresses
Zoe Saldana in a red outfit during a vacation. Photo: @zoesaldana
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 19th June 1978
  • Place of birth: Passaic, New Jersey, USA
  • Credits: 75
  • Awards: 16

Zoe Saldana is a producer, writer, and actress from Passaic, New Jersey, USA. She is known for starring in science-fiction and superhero movies. Some of the films she has been cast in are Vampires vs. the Bronx, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, I Kill Giants, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

3. Thandiwe Newton

beautiful black actresses
Thandiwe Newton in a black blazer and colourful skirt. Photo: @thandiwenewton
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 6th November 1972
  • Place of birth: Westminster, London, England, United Kingdom
  • Credits: 49
  • Awards: 15

Thandiwe Newton is an actress and producer from the United Kingdom. She started her career in 1991 when she was about 19 years old. Since then, she has achieved a lot in the industry, including bagging a Primetime Emmy.

2. Viola Davis

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famous black actresses
Viola Davis posing for a picture in a blue jacket. Photo: @violadavis
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 11th August 1965
  • Place of birth: St. Matthews, South Carolina, United States of America
  • Credits: 88
  • Awards: 103

Viola Davis started her professional acting career in 1996 when she featured on The Substance of Fire. Over the years, she has become a household name in Hollywood, and her achievements inspire numerous women to pursue their dreams and passions. She has won one Oscar.

1. Angela Bassett

famous black actresses
Angela Bassett posing for a picture in a white dress. Photo: @im.angelabassett
Source: Instagram
  • Date of birth: 16th August 1958
  • Place of birth: New York City, New York, United States of America
  • Credits: 103
  • Awards: 36

Angela Bassett's work has been felt in theatres and television screens worldwide. The actress started her career in 1975 and has featured in over 100 films, videos, and television shows. The Oscar award winner is also a producer and director.

Black actresses have done a tremendous job at improving representation in the film and television industry. Their hard work, persistence, and determination have won them global respect and love.

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READ ALSO: 40 famous black male actors every cinephile should know about

Legit.ng recently published a list of 40 famous black male actors you should know about in 2022. These actors are extraordinarily gifted, and some have been in the film and television industry for decades.

They include James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, Denzel Washington, Djimon Hounsou, and Jamie Foxx.

Source: Legit.ng

Authors:
Mercy Mbuthia avatar

Mercy Mbuthia (Lifestyle writer) Mercy Mbuthia is a content writer with five years of experience writing on various topics, including biographies, entertainment, and lifestyle. She joined the Legit team in 2019. Mercy earned a Master of Science (Food, Nutrition & Dietetics) from Dedan Kimathi University in 2022. Her articles have appeared on several media sites such as The Health Channel, The Nation, Tekrati, ValiantCEO and Celebrity Leader. In 2023, Mercy finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. Email: mercymmbuthia18@gmail.com

Cyprine Apindi avatar

Cyprine Apindi (Lifestyle writer) Cyprine Apindi is a content creator and educator with over six years of experience. She holds a Diploma in Mass Communication and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Kenyatta University. Cyprine joined Briefly.co.za in mid-2021, covering multiple topics, including finance, entertainment, sports, and lifestyle. In 2023, she finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. She received the 2023 Writer of the Year Award. In 2024, she completed the Google News Initiative course. Email: cyprineapindi@gmail.com

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