Blacktresses: From Gabourey Sidibe to Diahann Carroll

Aunjanue Ellis, Raven-Symone, Jurnee Smollett, Gabrielle Union and the women (many of them faceless here on IMDb) that blazed the trail.

A child of the 70's looks back.

[Note: I'm continuously updating when names come to me. Most recent additions: Sufe Bradshaw, Barbara Eve Harris]
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1.
Gabourey Sidibe
Actress, Precious
Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the star of Precious, was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Alice Tan Ridley, is a former special education teacher who gave up her career and became a street performer/singer, while her father, Ibnou Sidibe, is a cab driver. Her mother is African-American and her father is Senegalese...
 
2.
Sufe Bradshaw
Actress, Star Trek
Chicago native Sufe Bradshaw was born into a family of nine siblings, learning early on the value of hard work and dedication from her Sicilian dad and her mother of Ghanain roots. She began her acting odyssey at the Los Angeles City Theatre Academy, where she earned a degree in Theatre. Soon after her intensive study at The Academy...
 
3.
Alysia Joy Powell
Alysia Joy Powell is a native of Southern California. Born of two parents who met in an acting class, however, started her entertainment career late in her 20's with Gospel music. First as an artist, singing with the likes of Richard Smallwood, Yolanda Adams and GMWA, and singing back up for Artists like Mary J...
 
4.
Zoë Soul
Actress, Prisoners
 
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6.
Kali Hawk
Actress, Bridesmaids
Kali Hawk was a child prodigy, beginning high school at the age of 12, and gaining acceptance to prestigious New York arts university SUNY Purchase before she was 16 years old. While in a play on campus, she was introduced to a friend's agent and began doing commercials and plays in Manhattan's Lower East Side theatre district...
 
7.
Shanola Hampton
Actress, Shameless
Shanola Hampton was born May 27 in Charleston, South Carolina, to a Car Salesman and an IRS agent. She was raised in Summerville, South Carolina with her four sisters. In college she earned a degree in Theater, with emphasis in Performance from Winthrop University along with a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from University of Illinois...
 
9.
Joyful Drake
Joyful Drake was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her love for performing began at a young age, earning her two State Speech Performance Titles for reciting and delivering a re-enactment of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech and President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address." Joyful earned her B.A...
 
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11.
Yaani King Mondschein
New York native Yaani King began her career off-Broadway in "The Alchemist" at The Classic Stage Company. She segued into film and television with "The Prince and Me" with Julia Stiles, and "Sex and the City." After studying at The Actors Centre in London, Ms. King moved to Los Angeles and almost immediately landed a series regular role on the hit TNT show Saving Grace with Holly Hunter...
 
12.
Kat Graham
Kat Graham is a music artist, actress and producer, best known for her starring role in the hit TV show "The Vampire Diaries." Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Kat speaks four languages - English, Spanish, French and Hebrew - and is the daughter of a Liberian father and a Russian Jewish mother. At the age of 6...
 
13.
Amber Riley
Actress, Glee
 
14.
Denyce Lawton
Actress, Vlog
Multiethnic (African-American / Korean) actress Denyce Lawton is best known for her four seasons on the six-time NAACP Best Comedy Series Winner series House of Payne from producer Tyler Perry. Denyce was born and raised in the New Jersey communities of Belmar and Neptune (familiar to viewers of the series Jersey Shore and later moved to Washington...
 
15.
Mekia Cox
Mekia Cox is known for her work in the following movies: Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011), Battlefield America (2012), and I Kissed a Vampire (2010). She is also known for her work on two TV series: Secrets and Lies - Amanda Warner (5 episodes, 2016), and Chicago Med - Robyn Charles (3 episodes, 2016)
 
16.
Rutina Wesley
Actress, True Blood
Rutina Wesley is known for the character Tara Thorton, on the gritty Southern vampire drama, True Blood. She was born in the city most renowned for glitz and glamour, Las Vegas, Nevada and was exposed to the arts at a very early age; in fact entertainment runs through her veins. Her father, Ivery Wheeler...
 
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18.
Keke Palmer
Actress, Grease Live!
Keke Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer in Robbins, Illinois--a small town 20 miles south of Chicago-- to Sharon and Larry Palmer, both former actors. Palmer showed vocal promise as a five-year-old, when she belted out "Jesus Loves Me" in her church choir. A year later the singer-actress had a solo in her kindergarten play but...
 
19.
Amber Stevens West
Stevens was born in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of actor and radio announcer Shadoe Stevens, and former model Beverly Cunningham. She has a younger sister named Chyna Stevens (Chyna Rose Stevens). She is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School. Her father is Caucasian (of Norwegian, German, English, and Dutch descent) and her mother is African-American (and part-Comanche).
 
21.
Naturi Naughton
Actress, Fame
Naturi Naughton is an American Singer and Actress best known for her performance as "Lil Kim" in Fox Searchlight's hit film "Notorious", and her role in MGM's remake of the classic film "Fame". Naughton has starred in various other projects such as: Lottery Ticket, The Playboy Club, Mad Men and The Client List...
 
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24.
Sharon Pierre-Louis
Sharon Pierre-Louis is a multilingual Haitian-American fluent in Creole, American Sign Language, and conversational French. She is a classical/Opera singer and has 5 siblings, including a Deaf older brother. Her parents came to the United States during the 1980s in search of a better future. Years later...
 
28.
Tika Sumpter
Tika Sumpter was born in New York and graduated from Marymount Manhattan College. Sumpter began her career as model, before she landed the role of "Layla Williamson" in ABC's daytime soap opera, One Life to Live (2005-2010, 2011). After she left the soap, Sumpter won a recurring role in the CW series...
 
29.
Indigo
Actress, Broken City
Indigo was born Alyssa Ashley Nichols in 1984, in Los Angeles, CA. Coming from an artistic family, she was exposed early on to various facets of the arts and attributes much of her interests in them to this. She booked her first commercial for Armour Hot Dog at age 5, and spent the next several years doing various student films and industrials...
 
30.
Candice Coke
Actress, The Algerian
Hails from New York, where she studied Educational Theater at NYU while on a scholarship for spring board diving. She started her career dancing for icons like Michael Jackson, Prince, and many others in the States and internationally. Eventually she made the transition to Los Angeles where she has been successfully working in Film and Television...
 
31.
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...
 
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37.
Gabrielle Dennis
Actress, The Game
Gabrielle Dennis is an actress and comedian best known for her work in television as Janay on the hit series "The Game" (CW & BET) and as Denise Roy on Spike Tv's "Blue Mountain State" With a background as a trained dancer, actress, and singer that stretches all the way back to age 4 Gabrielle always knew she would have a career in the Arts...
 
39.
Yaya DaCosta
Yaya DaCosta was born and raised in New York City along with her sister and two brothers. She got her first acting gig at the age of eleven when her junior high school drama teacher, Ann Willis Ratray, encouraged her to audition for educational films. She continued to perform in school shows throughout high school and college and in 2005...
 
40.
Zoë Kravitz
Zoe Isabella Kravitz, the daughter of singer/actor Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, was born on December 1, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. She is of half African-American (from her father's mother and her mother's father) and half Ashkenazi Jewish (from her father's father and her mother's mother) descent...
 
41.
Erica Hubbard
Erica Hubbard started her career in 1988 doing voice-overs and starring in commercials such as: McDonald's, MCI, Reebok and Sears. She has worked in many markets, including Chicago, New York and California. Ms. Hubbard has performed in feature films distributed by Paramount, 20th Century Fox and TSIBILI Pictures...
 
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44.
Sandi McCree
Actress, The Wire
Actress, youth advocate and educator, Sandi McCree, known for her edgy, street-tough performance as "Delonda Brice" on HBO's The Wire, has been on the front line of arts education and media literacy for over 21 years years. McCree began acting at age 4 growing up in Washington, D.C. where she gained love for storytelling...
 
47.
Lauren London
Lauren London first appeared in the film, ATL, opposite actor and recording artist, Tip "TI" Harris. Due to London's breakout success in ATL, she received an offer to star in the film, This Christmas, with Loretta Devine, Idris Elba and Regina King. Her next film role was in the teen romantic comedy...
 
48.
Jennifer Hudson
Actress, 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...
 
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51.
Jaime Lee Kirchner
Actress, Mercy
Jaime Lee Kirchner was born in Germany to a white father of German descent and a black mother. She considers herself "mixed". Jaime began performing at The Roxy Regional Theater in Tennessee at the age of 8. Kirchner's first big break came when she was was just 17-years-old and still in high school...
 
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Sophina Brown
Actress, Shark
 
55.
Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose followed her work in the feature film "Dreamgirls" with a role in the comedy feature "Just Add Water," in which she co-stars with Danny DeVito, Dylan Walsh, Jonah Hill and Justin Long, under the direction of Hart Bochner. In 2004, Rose was honored with a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the widely acclaimed Broadway show "Caroline...
 
56.
Chandra Wilson
Houston, Texas native Chandra Wilson began performing in musicals at the age of five with Theatre Under the Stars. She attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and later went on to acquire her BFA in Drama from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts through which she spent four years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute...
 
57.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Actress, Concussion
Gugu, short for Gugulethu which is Zulu for "Our Pride", was born in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England. Her mother, Anne Raw, is a Caucasian English nurse, and her father, Patrick Mbatha, is a Black South African doctor. Her parents separated when she was a year old, and she was brought up by her mother in the town of Witney...
 
58.
Paula Patton
Paula Patton was born in Los Angeles, California, to Joyce (Vanraden) and Charles Patton. Her father is African-American and her mother, who is caucasian, has German, English, and Dutch ancestry. Her family lived across the street from the 20th Century Fox lot when she was growing up and she was a fan of films from her earliest years...
 
59.
Rose Rollins
Actress, The L Word
Rose Rollins was raised in Yonkers, New York, growing up with five brothers. She is an accomplished actress who has garnered attention on both the big and small screens. Rollins now stars in ABC's The Catch opposite Mireille Enos. The series centers on a gutsy female forensic accountant who exposes...
 
60.
Tiffany Hines
Actress, Bones
 
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62.
Victoria Gabrielle Platt
Actress, Guiding Light
Victoria Gabrielle Platt is an actress, singer and producer, known for Star-Crossed (2013), The Gates (2010), All My Children, Guiding Light (1952), 'Round Midnight (1986) and Winchell (1998). She was born to a West Indian mother and Polish father in Queens, NY. Victoria and Terrell Tilford have been married since September 29, 2001.
 
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65.
Tawny Cypress
Actress, Heroes
Among her studies, Tawny Cypress has done stints at Boston University; Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey; and Mason Gross at Rutgers University. She is also a former student of Barbara Marchant and The William Esper Studio in New York City.
 
66.
Naomie Harris
Actress, Skyfall
British actress Naomie Harris was born in London, the only child of television scriptwriter Lisselle Kayla. Her father is from Jamaica and her mother is from Trinidad. She showed an interest in acting from an early age and attended the prestigious Anna Scher Theatre School. From here, Harris won roles in various projects...
 
67.
Chelsea Tavares
Actress, Fright Night
Chelsea Royce Tavares (born September 22, 1991) is an American actress and singer. She best known for her role as Cranberry on the Nickelodeon series Unfabulous and as Autumn on Just Jordan. Tavares was born in Panorama City, Los Angeles, California and is of Cape Verdean descent. Tavares' other television acting credits include Zeke and Luther...
 
68.
Nicole Pulliam
Actress, Inception
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Nicole knew from a very young age that she wanted to pursue a career as a performer. To that end, she participated in several school productions while growing up, and completed numerous acting classes throughout her life. She started out slowly by taking on modeling and commercial gigs in her native Ohio...
 
69.
Dana Davis
She is a native of Davenport, Iowa. Attended Davenport North High School in Davenport, Iowa. Graduated with a music degree from Loyola Marymount University in 2001. Was a singer with the group "Necessity."
 
70.
Megalyn Echikunwoke
Actress, Spyder Games
Megalyn Ann Echikunwoke was born May 28, 1983 in Spokane, Washington. Her father is Nigerian and her mother is of Caucasian descent. Her last name Echikunwoke means "leader of men" and Megalyn is the granddaughter of a Nigerian tribal leader of the Igbo, which technically makes her African royalty. She is known for playing "Nicole Palmer" in the first season of 24...
 
71.
Tanya Wright
Actress, Why Stop Now?
Tanya recurs in the role of "Deputy Kenya Jones" on the HBO series True Blood; she will next appear in Why Stop Now, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Academy-Award winner Melissa Leo. Prior to True Blood, Tanya gained momentum on the small screen by commanding attention with her chameleon-like ability to "absorb" roles...
 
72.
Jill Scott
Born in 1972 in North Philadelphia, Jill Scott grew up in the ghetto with her mother, Joyce, and grandmother. A deeply loved and gifted child, she learned to talk at only eight months and was reading by age four. Always the center of attention, her principal in elementary school described her as a little butterfly...
 
74.
Sharon Warren
Actress, Ray
Warren's parents - her father is a policeman, her mother is an administrator at the Tuskegee Institute - steeped her in literature and theater when she was growing up. After leaving Auburn University, she decided to pursue acting. For a couple of months, she had to live in a car. Then she got her breakthrough role as Ray Charles' mother...
 
75.
Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones was born in Los Angeles, the younger daughter of media mogul, producer, and musician Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton. She has an older sister, Kidada Jones, and five half-siblings by her father's other relationships. Her father is African-American, and also has Welsh ancestry...
 
77.
Rochelle Aytes
Rochelle Aytes was born in New York City. She attended LaGuardia High School and graduated with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree in Dance from SUNY Purchase College Conservatory for Dance in 1998. She is best-known for her role in White Chicks as Denise Porter; her role in Left 4 Dead 2 as a news producer; and more recently in the TV series The Forgotten as Detective Grace Russell...
 
78.
Joy Bryant
Actress, Bobby
Joy Bryant was born in a modest home in The Bronx, New York and as a young woman, was enrolled in an inner-city outreach organization called "A Better Chance," designed to encourage minority talent. Joy was also blessed with brains as well beauty and remained an excellent student throughout her high school years. As a result, she was awarded a full academic scholarship to Yale University...
 
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81.
Zoe Saldana
Actress, Avatar
Zoe Saldana was born on June 19, 1978 in Passaic, New Jersey, to Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña. Her father was Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. 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...
 
82.
Merrin Dungey
Actress, Edtv
 
84.
Valarie Pettiford
Actress, Half & Half
Valarie Pettiford's career glitters like the lights on Broadway. An award-winning triple-threat, Valarie has worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, but has never let her brushes with fame go to her head. Although some would argue that she is a celebrity in her own right, Valarie is still a humble girl from Queens...
 
86.
Aisha Hinds
When Aisha Hinds' junior high school tap dance instructor observed that she needed an outlet for expression that surpassed her tap shoes, she was guided to the High School of Performing Arts in New York - where her formal acting training began. Hinds' numerous television credits include a supporting role on "Detroit 1-8-7"...
 
87.
Merle Dandridge
Merle was born in Okinawa, Japan to a mother of Korean and Japanese descent and an African-American father serving in the U.S. Air Force. After graduating high school in Papillion, Nebraska, she attended the Theatre Conservatory at Roosevelt University in Chicago on a full-ride scholarship and graduated with a BFA in Theatre...
 
88.
Eve
Actress, Eve
 
92.
Sonja Sohn
Actress, The Wire
 
93.
Drew Sidora
Actress, Step Up
 
94.
Keesha Sharp
Keesha Sharp's latest role is Trish Murtaugh, wife of the iconic character Roger Murtaugh on the FOX series Lethal Weapon . Coming later this year is also her costarring role opposite Chadwick Boseman in the biopic feature "Marshall" (2016) . Recently, Keesha played Dale Cochran opposite Courtney B. Vance on the hit series American Crime Story "The People Vs OJ Simpson"...
 
95.
Michael Hyatt
Actress, Nightcrawler
Born in England of Jamaican parents (her mother Vera an art historian and museologist and her father Charles an actor/broadcaster/comedian), Michael received her earliest education and what she considers her most formative years abroad. At the age of ten she migrated to the United States with her mother and two siblings...
 
96.
Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé was born in Houston, Texas. Her father, Mathew Knowles, manages Destiny's Child. Her mother, Tina Knowles (née Celestine Ann Beyincé), designs their glittering costumes. Solange Knowles, her sister (they're about 5 years apart), has released her debut album. She dances with her big sister during DC-3 concerts. Beyoncé is of African-American and Creole descent...
 
98.
Sharon Leal
Actress, Guiding Light
Sharon Leal is a military brat. She was born in Tuscon, Arizona. Sharon then moved with her parents to the Philippines, till she was 6 years old. She went to prayer-school there. Then, her parents packed up to move back to the US and settled in Fresno, California. Her mother, Angelita, who is Filipino...
 
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