Actors Who Dared to Play a Slave

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  • Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • LeVar Burton
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Kerry Washington
  • Lisa Gay Hamilton
  • Halle Berry
  • Denzel Washington
  • Oyafunmike Ogunlano
  • S. Epatha Merkerson
  • Hattie McDaniel

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Slavery is one of the most horrific eras in American history and has frequently been explored in cinema, from the groundbreaking mini-series Roots to this year's critical favorite 12 Years a Slave, which is already garnering Oscar buzz. But actors channeling slavery is often controversial and a risky career move.

Our list of actors who channeled the painful past to play slaves starts with Chiwetel Ejiofor. The British actor is already getting Oscar buzz for his portrayal of Solomon Northup, a free man who is kidnapped and put into slavery for over a decade, in Steve McQueen's drama. According to critics and film festival audiences, Ejiofor can start writing his acceptance speeches now.

(Photo: Courtesy Regency Enterprises)

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