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Heres a list of four black icons and the actors who nailed their performances

2019-04-27

Malcolm X is one of the most influential and controversial figures in African American history. Hes been played by a number of mega-talented actors since the 1970s including James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Mario Van Peebles. But nobody does Malcolm quite like Denzel. In 1992 Spike Lee made history with his biopic simply titled Malcolm X. Denzel was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance and with good reason. Critics almost universally praised his turn as the legendary black activist. He changed the world with his work to end racial oppression, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most celebrated visionaries the world has ever known. He has been featured in film well over a dozen times since his death. But the actor who reimagined the icon, and embodied the spirit and physicality of MLK is David Oyelowo. His performance in Ava DuVernays SELMA won him critical acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination. Famously though, the film got almost entirely shut out of that years Oscar race, spurning the hashtag movement #OscarsSoWhite. Anti-apartheid leader, political figure and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela received more that 250 awards and honors including the Nobel Peace Prize. We think its a tie between Morgan Freeman in 2009s Invictus and Idris Elba in Long Walk To Freedom. Muhammad Ali wasnt only a hero in boxing. He was a beacon of the civil rights movement, who proudly embraced his black identity inside and outside the ring. Not to be confused with the documentary about Ali called The Greatest, there was also a narrative feature called The Greatest starring Muhammad Ali as himself. Although Ali playing himself sounds hard to beat, Will Smith did an excellent job in Ali. The movie covers the ten years in which Ali took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in 1964 to his famous Rumble In The Jungle in 1974 with George Foreman. Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for the role. We would be remiss if we didnt mention recent films like Hidden Figures or The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks as wonderful representations of black female historical figures. But the fact is, women of color are still GROSSLY underrepresented in the mainstream theatrical space. Lets hope that changes soon. For HitFix on Uproxx, shes Miri Jedeikin. And hes Yusef Roach.