Viola Davis

Nothing makes you shift in your seat at the cinema more than a brilliantly-acted scene by a leading lady. However, African American actresses with star power are too often relegated to supporting roles. For your viewing pleasure, we’d like to honor the many hard-working, Black leading ladies in the industry with this gallery of short clips featuring powerful Oscar-nominated Black actresses.

Oprah Winfrey as Sofia in "The Color Purple" (1985)

Staff favorite line: "I ain't never thought I had to fight in my own house."

Viola Davis as the Mayor in "Law Abiding Citizen" (2009)

Staff favorite line: “Get this situation under control, gentlemen.”

Octavia Spencer as Minnie in "The Help" (2011)

Staff favorite line: “I got to come up with your questions, too?”

What’s your favorite scene/line performed by an outstanding African American starlet? We’d love to hear it in the comments.

For more great work from Black actresses, XFINITY On Demand™ features Dorothy Dandridge's "Carmen Jones." Learn more, and join the celebration of Black entertainment at

Editor’s Note: Throughout Black History Month and beyond, Shadow and Act will partner with XFINITY to celebrate Black entertainment. XFINITY is creating a unique digital community built around the love of Black entertainment at Shadow and Act hopes to enrich this community and provide a launching pad for insightful discussion. Look to Shadow and Act for features and content examining and exploring key themes and topics that run throughout the history of Black entertainment.