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50 Black actors who made entertainment history

  • Eddie Murphy

    Early in his career, Eddie Murphy won national attention as a member of television’s “Saturday Night Live” cast. In addition to his majorly successful stand-up comedic career, he made cult classics such as “Coming to America” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” which was the highest-grossing film released in 1984. The famous comedian has had a thriving acting career starring in such films as “The Nutty Professor,” “Dr. Dolittle,” the voice of Donkey in “Shrek,” and “Dreamgirls.”

  • Debbie Allen

    With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Tony Award, and three Emmys, Debbie Allen is one of the most influential names in the entertainment industry. Well known for her dance choreography and director roles, Allen is also a talented actress starring in television shows “In the House” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” In 2001, she opened her dance studio, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, in Los Angeles.

  • Dwayne Johnson

    Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a third-generation wrestler and headliner of “Wrestlemania XXVIII,” the most successful pay-per-view event ever for the WWE, shifted to acting in 2004 and became one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, earning more than $10 billion worldwide. Johnson slowly integrated himself into the film industry as a career switch and became one of the most recognizable faces to hit the big screen in films such as “The Game Plan,” and the “Fast and Furious” and “Jumanji” franchises.

  • Daniel Kaluuya

    Born in London, Daniel Kaluuya has had a breakout couple of years on the big screen. In 2017, Kaluuya starred in “Get Out,” a film critically praised worldwide. He earned a nomination for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for best actor. He also appears in “Black Panther,” "Widows," and "Queen & Slim."

  • Gail Fisher

    Gail Fisher got her start and climbed her way up the entertainment headlines as Peggy Fair on “Mannix,” a television show in the ’70s. Fisher won two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award, and this made her the first Black actress to win either award in the supporting category. She was also the first Black actress to appear on a television commercial with a speaking role.

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  • Tyler Perry

    Tyler Perry has a true and inspiring rags-to-riches story that put him in the billionaire status. In the 1990s, Perry birthed Madea, which has become one of his most well-known and fan-favorite characters to date for her sassy attitude and her representation of the protective, Black grandmother figure—really Perry in drag apparel. After producing stage plays with the character, he went on to produce and star in many feature-length films and television shows. He created an entertainment studio that various production companies use in Atlanta.

  • Roxie Roker

    Mother to actor and musician Lenny Kravitz, Roxie Roker became a household name as Helen Willis on the popular sitcom “The Jeffersons,” where she made television history by becoming one half of the first interracial couples to appear on prime-time television. After this, she went on to act in other projects and garnered a Tony Award nomination.

  • Laverne Cox

    Laverne Cox made television history in 2014 when she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category for her role on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” An activist and outspoken advocate for transgender rights, especially in the entertainment industry, Cox was the first transgender person to be featured on the cover of Time magazine.

  • Oprah Winfrey

    The first Black woman to own her own production company (Harpo Productions), to be nominated for an Oscar for her first movie, and to be television’s highest-paid entertainer, Oprah Winfrey is a hugely influential household name. Once a local journalist, she transformed herself into one of the biggest talk show hosts of her time, reaching 15 million people a day. She's also acted in several films, most notably as Sofia in “The Color Purple.”

  • Lena Horne

    Lena Horne was a singer, actress, civil rights activist, and one of the top Black performers of her time. She often refused roles that portrayed racial stereotypes to better Black representation in Hollywood. Horne appeared on Broadway in more than 300 performances of her show “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” among her many accomplishments during a 70-year career.

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