50 best black actors

my opinion no particular order
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Sidney Poitier
A native of Cat Island, The Bahamas (though born in Miami during a mainland visit by his parents), Poitier grew up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also drove a cab. He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to Miami to live with his brother...
 
2.
Juano Hernandez
He was the son of a Puerto Rican seaman. He was self-educated and spent much of his childhood in Brazil singing on the streets to raise money for food. He became an actor after having been a circus performer, radio actor, and vaudeville performer. He worked in the chorus of the 1927 stage production of the musical "Show Boat"...
 
3.
Ivan Dixon
Ivan Dixon, was a handsome, mustachioed African-American actor and director who carried a strong, serious nature about his solid frame, initially earned attention on the ground-breaking stage and film with pronounced themes of social and racial relevance. He would become better known, however, for his ensemble playing in the nonsensical but popular WWII sitcom Hogan's Heroes...
 
4.
William Marshall
Actor, Blacula
Dynamic African American leading man and characters actor William Marshall trained in Grand Opera, Broadway and Shakespeare. In films from the 50s and 60s including: Lydia Bailey, Something of Value, To Trap a Spy and finally known for being in The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis. Marshall really didn't hit it big until the "blaxplotation" era of the 70s...
“ Excellent as Othello and in Demetrius and the Gladiators ” - flanyjet
 
5.
Richard Roundtree
Actor, Se7en
Richard Roundtree's iconic career began while attending Southern Illinois University where he was on a football scholarship. After being spotted Richard signed with Johnson Publications to model in their Ebony Fashion Fair, touring 79 cities in 90 days. But rather than returning to school, Roundtree headed off to his home state of New York to begin acting lessons...
 
6.
Godfrey Cambridge
Cambridge won a four-year scholarship to study medicine but decided, instead, to become an actor, leaving college in his third year. He acted in many off-Broadway productions, winning the Village Voice's Obie Award in Jean Genet's "The Blacks"; and, on Broadway, he gained a Tony Award Nomination in "Purlie's Victorious"...
 
7.
Brock Peters
Born of African and West Indian ancestry on July 2, 1927 in New York City, Brock Peters set his sights on a show business career early on, at age ten. A product of NYC's famed Music and Arts High School, Peters initially fielded more odd jobs than acting jobs as he worked his way up from Harlem poverty...
 
8.
Raymond St. Jacques
Actor, They Live
Actor Raymond St. Jacques was born James Arthur Johnson in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1930, but he and younger sister Barbara were raised in Depression-era New Haven after their parents' divorce. He started writing and performing in his own short plays in elementary school and developed a strong interest in acting after appearing in a production of "Othello"...
 
9.
Billy Dee Williams
Billy Dee Williams was born William December Williams on April 6, 1937 in New York City. Billy Dee has notched up an impressive array of film and television appearances over the past 50+ years. He is easily best known to international film audiences as the roguish Lando Calrissian in the last two episodes of the original Star Wars-trilogy: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi...
 
10.
Calvin Lockhart
Bahamian-born Calvin Lockhart first caught moviegoers' attention in the supercharged urban films Cotton Comes to Harlem and Halls of Anger before becoming a fairly steady fixture in the "blaxploitation" movies of the early-to-mid 1970s. Born Bert Cooper to a large family in Nassau on October 18, 1934, he...
 
11.
Denzel Washington
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York. He is the middle of three children of a beautician mother, Lennis, from Georgia, and a Pentecostal minister father, Denzel Washington, Sr., from Virginia. After graduating from high school, Denzel enrolled at Fordham University...
 
12.
Don Cheadle
Donald Frank Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 29, 1964. His childhood found him moving from city to city with his family: mother Bettye (North), a teacher, father Donald Frank Cheadle, Sr., a clinical psychologist, sister Dawn, and brother Colin. After graduating high school in Denver...
 
13.
 
14.
Giancarlo Esposito
Music Department, The Electric Company
Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an Italian carpenter/stagehand father from Naples and an opera-singing African-American mother from Alabama. His parents, working in Europe at the time of his birth, settled in Manhattan by the time he was six, and that's where he grew up...
 
15.
Wesley Snipes
Actor, Blade
Wesley Trent Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida, to Maryann (Long), a teacher's assistant, and Wesley Rudolph Snipes, an aircraft engineer. He grew up on the streets of the South Bronx in New York City, where he very early decided that the theater was to be his career. He attended the High School for the Performing Arts (popularized in Fame)...
 
16.
Laurence Fishburne
Actor, The Matrix
One of Hollywood's most talented and versatile performers and the recipient of a truckload of NAACP Image awards, Laurence John Fishburne III was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961, to Hattie Bell (Crawford), a teacher, and Laurence John Fishburne, Jr., a juvenile corrections officer. His mother transplanted her family to Brooklyn after his parents divorced...
 
17.
Richard Pryor
Highly influential, and always controversial, African-American actor/comedian who was equally well known for his colorful language during his live comedy shows, as for his fast paced life, multiple marriages and battles with drug addiction. He has been acknowledged by many modern comic artist's as a key influence on their careers...
 
18.
Eddie Murphy
Edward Regan Murphy was born April 3, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, to Lillian, a telephone operator, and Charles Edward Murphy, a transit police officer who was also an amateur comedian and actor. After his father died, his mother married Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyer's Ice Cream plant. His siblings are Charlie Murphy and Vernon Lynch...
 
19.
Bill Cobbs
Bill Cobbs was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where his parents were hard-working people, who instilled in him a sense of self-reliance and humility. As an amateur actor in the city's Karamu House Theater, he starred in the Ossie Davis play "Purlie Victorious". Cobbs was an Air Force radar technician for eight years; he also worked in office products at IBM and sold cars in Cleveland...
 
21.
Louis Gossett Jr.
Actor, Enemy Mine
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. was born on May 27, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York City. He made his professional acting debut at age 17, winning the Donaldson Award as best newcomer to theatre. He went to New York University on a basketball scholarship and was invited to try out for the New York Knicks, yet...
 
23.
Greg Morris
Born in Cleveland, Morris came to Hollywood in the early 1960s. His acting experience at that time consisted of a few minor roles on the Seattle stage. He found work appearing on Television series such as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Twilight Zone before being cast in Mission: Impossible. Morris played quiet, efficient electronics expert Barney Collier from 1966-1973...
 
24.
Joe Morton
Joe Morton was born on October 18, 1947 in New York, New York, USA. He is a television, film, and theater actor, best known for The Brother from Another Planet, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Eureka, and Scandal. He also writes and directs, and is a singer/songwriter.
 
25.
Blair Underwood
Actor, Gattaca
Smart, confident, eloquent, exceptionally handsome African-American actor Blair Underwood was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1964, the son of Marilyn Ann, an interior decorator, and Frank Eugene Underwood, Sr., an army colonel. With his family, he lived all over the world. Trained in musical theater at Carnegie-Mellon...
 
26.
Terrence Howard
Actor, Iron Man
Terrence Howard was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Anita Jeanine Williams (née Hawkins) and Tyrone Howard. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His love for acting came naturally, through summers spent with his great-grandmother, New York stage actress Minnie Gentry. He later began his acting career after being discovered on a New York City street by a casting director...
 
27.
Roscoe Lee Browne
He was a master class in cerebral eloquence and audience command...and although his dominant playing card in the realm of acting was quite serious and stately, nobody cut a more delightfully dry edge in sitcoms than this gentleman, whose calm yet blistering put-downs often eluded his lesser victims...
 
28.
Delroy Lindo
Actor, Up
On the stage and on the big screen, Delroy Lindo projects a powerful presence that is almost impossible to ignore. Alhough it was not his first film role, his portrayal of the bipolar numbers boss West Indian Archie in Spike Lee's Malcolm X is what first attracted attention to Lindo's considerable talents. Since then, his star has slowly been on the rise...
 
29.
Howard E. Rollins Jr.
Howard E. Rollins Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. He was the youngest of four children born to Howard E. Rollins Sr. (steelworker) and Ruth R. Rollins (domestic worker). Rollins graduated from Towson State College, where he studied theater. His first break into acting came when a friend convinced him to try out for a role in "Of Mice and Men" at a local Baltimore theater...
 
31.
Danny Glover
Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. Glover was born in San Francisco, California, to Carrie (Hunley) and James Glover, postal workers who were also active in civil rights. Glover trained at the Black Actors' Workshop of the American Conservatory Theater...
 
33.
Adolph Caesar
Born in the Harlem section of New York City, joined the Navy, then studied drama at New York University; was an announcer for then joined the Negro Ensemble Co. in 1970 for such productions as "The River Niger", "Square Root of the Soul" and "The Brownsville Raid"; worked with repertory groups such as the Minnesota Theater Co....
 
34.
Paul Winfield
Signifying intelligence, eloquence, versatility and quiet intensity, one of the more important, critically acclaimed black actors to gain a Hollywood foothold in the 1970s was Paul Winfield. Born in 1941 in Los Angeles, he lived there in his early years before moving with his family to Los Angeles' Watts district...
 
35.
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones was born on January 17, 1931 in Arkabutla, Mississippi, USA. At an early age, he started to take dramatic lessons to calm himself down. It appeared to work as he has since starred in many films over a 40-year period, beginning with the Stanley Kubrick classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He is...
 
36.
Bill Nunn
Actor, Spider-Man
Commanding performer Bill Nunn made his feature debut in fellow Morehouse College graduate Spike Lee's School Daze, but really etched himself into moviegoers' minds as a formidable screen presence in his second film with Lee, Do the Right Thing, playing Radio Raheem, whose ever-present boom box is at the center of a fight that leads to his death at the hands of an overzealous police officer...
 
37.
Morgan Freeman
With an authoritative voice and calm demeanor, this ever popular American actor has grown into one of the most respected figures in modern US cinema. Morgan was born on June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Mayme Edna (Revere), a teacher, and Morgan Porterfield Freeman, a barber. The young Freeman...
 
38.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson is an American producer and highly prolific actor, having appeared in over 100 films, including Die Hard with a Vengeance, Unbreakable, Shaft, Formula 51, Black Snake Moan, Snakes on a Plane, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005), as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe...
 
39.
Ron O'Neal
Actor, Super Fly
Forever tagged as the super baaaaaaad "Super Fly," actor Ron O'Neal has spent his entire post 70s career trying to break the chains of a stereotype that made him his fortune. Of tough, humble beginnings, Ron was the son of a wannabe jazz musician who became a factory worker in order to support the family...
 
40.
Forest Whitaker
Actor, Platoon
Forest Steven Whitaker has packaged a king-size talent into his hulking 6' 2", 220 lb. frame. He won an Academy Award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, and has also won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. He is the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor...
 
41.
Canada Lee
Actor, Lifeboat
Lee played Danny (opposite of Hilda Simms, who played Anna) in Anna Lucasta on Broadway in 1944. Anna Lucasta was the first non-black written play performed by an all black cast on Broadway. He became an actor after careers as a jockey, boxer and musician. Lee was a civil rights activist, following in the footsteps of Paul Robeson.
 
43.
Jeffrey Wright
Quite possibly the most underrated and underexposed actor of his caliber and generation, Jeffrey Wright's undeniable talent and ability to successfully bring to life any role he undertakes is on a par with the most praised and revered A-list actors in the business. Born and raised in Washington DC, Wright graduated from the prestigious Amherst college in 1987...
 
45.
James McEachin
Actor, 2010
James McEachin was born on May 20, 1930 in Rennert, North Carolina. At the age of 18 he joined the US Armed Forces and served in the Korean War earning many medals of valor to include the Purple Heart and Silver Star. After leaving the military he spent time as a policeman and then fireman before moving to California and becoming a record producer...
 
46.
 
47.
Glynn Turman
Actor, Super 8
New York City-born African-American actor Glynn Turman enjoyed his first real taste of acting success at the age of 13 originating the role of Travis Younger on Broadway in Lorraine Hansberry's landmark play "A Raisin in the Sun" in 1959 opposite Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands as his various family members...
 
48.
Larenz Tate
Larenz Tate was born on the west side of Chicago to Larry and Peggy Tate, the youngest of three brothers. His brothers are actors Larron Tate and Lahmard J. Tate. In 1984, Larenz and his family moved to California. It was while living in California that Larenz's parents got him and his brothers involved in a drama program at the Inner City Cultural Center...
 
50.
“ Great historical black actor and musician ” - flanyjet