Photos: Icons in Entertainment

Black stars who've changed the face of entertainment.

Richard Pryor - Few comedians today measure up to Richard Pryor, though almost all of them would list the pioneering comic as one of their biggest influencers. Taking the painful experiences of his childhood and life, Pryor mixed humor with provocative social commentary to change the face of comedy.  (Photo: Commercial Appeal/Leonard Atkins /Landov)

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Richard Pryor - Few comedians today measure up to Richard Pryor, though almost all of them would list the pioneering comic as one of their biggest influencers. Taking the painful experiences of his childhood and life, Pryor mixed humor with provocative social commentary to change the face of comedy.  (Photo: Commercial Appeal/Leonard Atkins /Landov)

Redd Foxx - Best known to the world as “Fred Sanford” from the '70s sitcom Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx (left) was an original king of comedy. His raunchy "blue" comedy in the '50s and '60s was put on wax and produced several gold albums. (Photo: Courtesy WikiCommons)

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Redd Foxx - Best known to the world as “Fred Sanford” from the '70s sitcom Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx (left) was an original king of comedy. His raunchy "blue" comedy in the '50s and '60s was put on wax and produced several gold albums. (Photo: Courtesy WikiCommons)

Dorothy Dandridge in The King and I - The songbird was pursued for the role of Tuptim in this 1956 classic, but turned it down on the advice of Otto Preminger, her director from Carmen Jones, who dissuaded her from accepting a supporting role. Her biopic, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, also suggests she passed because the character was a slave.(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Dorothy Dandridge - For her unforgetable role in the Black opera film Carmen Jones, the stunning actress not only became America's first Black female sex symbol but the first Black actress nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.  (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Will Smith in Men in Black\r - Aliens are typical frightening creatures, but leave it to Will Smith to turn an extraterrestrial invasion into a feel-good film. The charming actor, along with his curmudgeon-y partner, Tommy Lee Jones, had us laughing so hard we nearly forget to be scared.\r(Photo: Courtesy Warner Bros Pictures)

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Will Smith - Hailing from Philadelphia, the rapper-turned-actor formerly known as the Fresh Prince is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and, now, producers.  Following his role as Muhammad Ali in the critically-hailed biopic, Ali, Smith became the first rap artist to be nominated for an Oscar. (Photo: Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Paul Robeson - Singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson was known as much for being outspoken about racial discrimination, which made him a target of federal authorities, as he was for his overwhelming talent. Before Sidney Poitier or Denzel Washington, Robeson was America's first Black male movie star. (Photo: Courtesy WikiCommons)

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Paul Robeson - Singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson was known as much for being outspoken about racial discrimination, which made him a target of federal authorities, as he was for his overwhelming talent. Before Sidney Poitier or Denzel Washington, Robeson was America's first Black male movie star. (Photo: Courtesy WikiCommons)

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Denzel Washington - One of only two Black men to win the Best Actor Oscar (Training Day), Washington is still a fan favorite and sex symbol in his 50s. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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Denzel Washington - One of only two Black men to win the Best Actor Oscar (Training Day), Washington is still a fan favorite and sex symbol in his 50s. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Lena Horne - From films like Stormy Weather (1943) to The Wiz (1978), Lena Horne’s singing and acting legacy has been showcased in film and music. (Photo: AP Photo/Jerry Mosey, File)

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Lena Horne - From films like Stormy Weather (1943) to The Wiz (1978), Lena Horne’s singing and acting legacy has been showcased in film and music. (Photo: AP Photo/Jerry Mosey, File)

Bill Cosby - Still called “America’s favorite dad,” Cosby made it big in the '60s first as a stand-up comedian and then as a TV star on the groundbreaking show I Spy. Cosby became an American icon playing Cliff Huxtable on his popular '80s sitcom, The Cosby Show. (Photo: dpa /Landov)

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Bill Cosby - Still called “America’s favorite dad,” Cosby made it big in the '60s first as a stand-up comedian and then as a TV star on the groundbreaking show I Spy. Cosby became an American icon playing Cliff Huxtable on his popular '80s sitcom, The Cosby Show. (Photo: dpa /Landov)

Oprah Winfrey - Aside from being a producer and an iconic talk show host, Winfrey is America's first Black female billionaire. As a television power player, she changed the game for Blacks on TV and those working behind the scenes in the television industry. (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

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Oprah Winfrey - Aside from being a producer and an iconic talk show host, Winfrey is America's first Black female billionaire. As a television power player, she changed the game for Blacks on TV and those working behind the scenes in the television industry. (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Debbie Allen - Director and choreographer Debbie Allen remains a creative force in the arts and entertainment industry years after she first appeared in the 1980 film Fame. (Photo: Omar Reyes /Landov)

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Debbie Allen - Director and choreographer Debbie Allen remains a creative force in the arts and entertainment industry years after she first appeared in the 1980 film Fame. (Photo: Omar Reyes /Landov)

Photo By Photo: Omar Reyes /Landov

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Tyler Perry - Following in the footsteps of his heroine, Oprah Winfrey, the powerhouse producer of Black comedies is one of Hollywood’s biggest success stories. (Photo: Mark Davis/PictureGroup)

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Tyler Perry - Following in the footsteps of his heroine, Oprah Winfrey, the powerhouse producer of Black comedies is one of Hollywood’s biggest success stories. (Photo: Mark Davis/PictureGroup)

Oscar Micheaux - An author and film director, Micheaux was criticized for portraying stereotypes, but praised for his work for shining a light on the Black experience. (Photo: Courtesy Wikicommons)

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Oscar Micheaux - An author and film director, Micheaux was criticized for portraying stereotypes, but praised for his work for shining a light on the Black experience. (Photo: Courtesy Wikicommons)

Spike Lee - His directorial talents helped pave the way for urban film with movies like Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues, School Daze and She's Gotta Have It. (Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images)

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Spike Lee - His directorial talents helped pave the way for urban film with movies like Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues, School Daze and She's Gotta Have It. (Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images)

Queen Latifah - The entertainer born Dana Owens has risen from hip hop MC to actress, movie producer, all-around entrepreneur, jazz singer and Covergirl. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

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Queen Latifah - The entertainer born Dana Owens has risen from hip hop MC to actress, movie producer, all-around entrepreneur, jazz singer and Covergirl. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Lorraine Hansberry - One of the most celebrated Black playwrights, her production A Raisin in the Sun is still regarded as one of the premier all-American classics. (Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection)

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Lorraine Hansberry - One of the most celebrated Black playwrights, her production A Raisin in the Sun is still regarded as one of the premier all-American classics. (Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection)

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Flip Wilson - Long before Dave Chappelle won hearts across America with his uproarious brand of comedy that earned him the title "world’s greatest sketch comedian," Time magazine called another genius in the genre, Flip Wilson, “TV’s first Black superstar.” (Photo: CBS /Landov)

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Flip Wilson - Long before Dave Chappelle won hearts across America with his uproarious brand of comedy that earned him the title "world’s greatest sketch comedian," Time magazine called another genius in the genre, Flip Wilson, “TV’s first Black superstar.” (Photo: CBS /Landov)

Sidney Poitier - They called him “Mr. Tibbs,” but they also called him Best Actor at the Academy Awards in 1964 for his role in Lillies in the Field. That groundbreaking honor would lead him to a number of other memorable life roles as a diplomat, public servant and humanitarian. (Photo: dpa /Landov)

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Sidney Poitier - They called him “Mr. Tibbs,” but they also called him Best Actor at the Academy Awards in 1964 for his role in Lillies in the Field. That groundbreaking honor would lead him to a number of other memorable life roles as a diplomat, public servant and humanitarian. (Photo: dpa /Landov)

Alvin Ailey - Decades after its founding and his death, the dance troupe he started (and named for him) remains among the most popular performing arts companies in the world. It still performs routines he choreographed. (Photo: Michael Evans/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

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Alvin Ailey - Decades after its founding and his death, the dance troupe he started (and named for him) remains among the most popular performing arts companies in the world. It still performs routines he choreographed. (Photo: Michael Evans/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

Jim Brown - Arguably the greatest NFL player of all time, Jim Brown went on to become a successful actor, director and producer in Hollywood. Brown made history by taking part in one of the first film interracial love scenes with Raquel Welch in 100 Rifles. (Photo: George Rose/Getty Images)

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Jim Brown - A former NFL superstar, Jim Brown raised Black masculinity to a higher power and brought it unapologetically to Hollywood in films like Three the Hard Way.  (Photo: George Rose/Getty Images)

Sammy Davis Jr. - As a singer, dancer and actor, Davis was one of Black entertainment’s original triple threats. Many others would eventually follow in his footsteps. (Photo: CBS /Landov)

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Sammy Davis Jr. - As a singer, dancer and actor, Davis was one of Black entertainment’s original triple threats. Many others would eventually follow in his footsteps. (Photo: CBS /Landov)