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50 Black actors who made entertainment history

  • Phylicia Rashad

    Phylicia Rashad first gained notoriety for playing Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” which garnered her two Emmy nominations. Later on in her career, she became the first Black woman to win a best actress Tony Award for her performance in the play “A Raisin in the Sun.” She broke barriers portraying a Black woman on prime-time television who was a lawyer and financially content.

  • Donald Glover

    A man of many talents, Donald Glover, a.k.a Childish Gambino, is not only an actor, but a musical artist who won a Grammys in the categories for record of the year, song of the year, best rap/sung performance, and best music video for his hip-hop song “This Is America.” The singer, actor, comedian, and writer is mostly known in Hollywood for his character in the show “Atlanta,” which he also created.

  • Anika Noni Rose

    Anika Noni Rose is known for voicing Princess Tiana, Disney’s first Black animated princess in “The Princess and the Frog,” which came out in 2009, the same year Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, was inaugurated. It was coincidental, but timely. Her film career includes the role of Lorrell Robinson in “Dreamgirls,” she won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for “Caroline, or Change,” and was nominated for a Tony Award for her appearance in a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

  • John Legend

    John Legend is widely known for his vocal and piano skills in his musical career, but what many don’t know is he was the first Black man and second Black person to reach EGOT status—winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. Movies like “Glory” and theatrical productions like “Jitney,” aside from his music, made him a name to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.

  • Audra McDonald

    This actress has put her audience in awe of her performances on Broadway, but furthermore, she has won six Tony Awards, which is more than any other actor, and is the only person to win in all four acting categories. McDonald also has extensive television experience, as well as film appearances. In 2016, McDonald was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama for her achievements.

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  • Gloria Hendry

    A popular actress in the ’70s, Gloria Hendry gained popularity being one of the first Black Bond girls after showcasing her on-screen romance to James Bond in “Live and Let Die.” When the film debuted in South Africa, many of her love scenes were cut from the film due to the Apartheid government.

  • Keke Palmer

    Keke Palmer has been gracing the big and small screens since she was 11. Now 27, she made history as the first Black woman to host the Video Music Awards. During her run on Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP,” she was the fourth highest-paid child star on television, and she was the first Black woman to play Cinderella on Broadway.

  • Vanessa Williams

    Vanessa Williams was credited early in her career as the first Black woman to be crowned Miss America in 1984. Following revelation of questionable events, however, Williams was stripped of her crown. Nonetheless, Williams went on to have a thriving acting career and received multiple Grammy and Emmy nominations for her work.

  • Quvenzhané Wallis

    Quvenzhané Wallis is best known for her 2014 adaptation of the titular character in “Annie.” She was the first Black actor to portray the character in a feature-length film. She is also the youngest actress ever to be nominated for a best actress Oscar. She has since published four children’s books.

  • Jordan Peele

    The year 2017 was a groundbreaking year for Jordan Peele as the director of the critically praised film “Get Out.” He became the first Black screenwriter to win the Academy Award for best original screenplay in 2018. Not only this, but Peele’s film will go down in history as one of the greatest thrillers to star a Black character and center around a Black theme.

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