During the 2016 Academy Awards, not a single African-American actor was nominated for an award in any of the acting categories. This has led many people to assume Hollywood is racist and that they are unfair towards minorities – particularly African-Americans. While it’s true that Hollywood should be more diversified, you can’t help but wonder if there is some actual merit to people’s claims and if so what can we as a nation do to put an end to it? We’re here today to celebrate African-Americans in film in hopes to help spread the word about how being prejudged towards any race is wrong.
The Richest African-American Actors – 2018 List
#10 – Eddie Murphy (Net Worth: $80 Million)
Funny man Eddie Murphy was born in April in the year 1963. When Murphy was very young his father died in a tragic accident. During this time period his mother was unable to care for both him and his older brother due to illness so Murphy and his brother (Charlie) were sent to foster care. They would spend a little more than a year in foster care and Murphy would later on in life go back and describe his experience in foster care as the single most vital thing to his success as a stand-up comedian. After he and his brother left foster care they would join their mother and future step-father in Roosevelt, NY. During this time is when Murphy would really begin to hone his craft of becoming a comedian. He would often times sit in his room and watch other comedians like Richard Pryor on television and revolve his routines around their performances.
Murphy would go on to headline Saturday Night Live (SNL) in the early ’80s, bringing the show out of a temporary slump that it had been going through. The show was declining for years but Murphy came along and brought the show back to life with his multiple comedic roles. With the success he received from SNL he was able to start an even more successful film career. He would go on to star in several very popular movies, including: 48 Hrs., Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places. He also did vocal work for Disney’s Mulan and DreamWorks’ Shrek which would go on to have a few sequels. During the 2006 Golden Globes he was able to snag a Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in the motion picture version of the musical Dreamgirls but unfortunately didn’t win the Oscar.
The vast wealth that Eddie Murphy has acquired can be attributed to his perfect comedic timing in his roles. These days his films aren’t as successful but when you’ve starred in so many successful films, you’re bound to have a few flops. Although he struggled in his early years, he managed to perceiver and has become one of Hollywood’s go-to comedic actors.
#9 – Jamie Foxx (Net Worth: $85 Million)
Jamie Foxx is without a doubt one of the most influential African-American actors of our time. His birth name is Eric Marlon Bishop and he was born in December of 1967. As a child, he was primarily raised by his grandmother who he attributes as the reason he has become so successful. When he was in the third grade his teacher found him so humorous that if her class behaved she would allow young Foxx to perform jokes in front of the class. This was a way she could reward the class and it’s where Foxx got the hang of being such a well-endowed improv performer. As he continued his education he would end up being involved with musical arts which is where his passion for music began. At a young age he was able to learn piano by ear and went on to continue studying classical music at the United States International University.
His career would finally break out in 1991 when he would land a role in the sketch comedy show In Living Color. With his success in the show he would be able to star in his own sitcom for five years called The Jamie Foxx Show. After that show ended his film career would start which is where he has been able to earn the majority of his wealth. He played a taxi driver opposite Tom Cruise in the 2004 crime thriller Collateral. Other films include Dreamgirls, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jarhead, White House Down, The Kingdom, Django Unchained and the film Ray which won him an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
On top of his hugely successful film career, Foxx also releases studio albums on the side. To date he’s released five albums, the most recent being Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses. He’s also been featured in several rap songs alongside legends like Kanye West.
#8 – LL Cool J (Net Worth: $100 Million)
James Todd Smith, also known as LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James) was born in 1968 in New York. He is credited as being one of the original Hip-Hop and Rap artists to mainstream that genre of music. By the time James was 9 years old he already knew he wanted to be a rap artist. With the help of his grandfather, who bought him musical equipment, James learned how to freestyle sick ass beats which would later earn him a recording contract with Def Jam Records which at the time was an independent record label. With the success of his musical career on the rise James was able to land a few appearances in television shows until he even starred in his own show in 1995 called In the House which starred James who played an ex-football player who rented part of his house out to a single mother of two children. The success of his show earned James a few roles in films. One of the first being the science fiction thriller Deep Blue Sea which is a movie about genetically enhanced sharks. He has also appeared in several other movies like Deliver Us from Eva, Last Holiday and S.W. A. T.
Throughout his career as both a successful actor and Hip-Hop artist, James has gone on to release 13 music albums, star in several feature-length films and television shows and has even been able to host the Grammy’s a few times. James himself has won a Grammy before way back in the early ‘90s when his career was just getting started. Although he was primarily interested in music, James has taken a back seat to that career lately to focus on his acting roles. These days he plays a secret agent in the hugely popular NSIC franchise, working alongside Chris O’Donnell.
#7 – Ice Cube (Net Worth: $100 Million)
O’Shea Jackson who is better known by his stage name Ice Cube was born in June in the year 1969. His career began when he joined up with fellow rappers Dr. Dre and Eazy-E to form the rap group N.W. A. The group would see tremendous success on the West Coast as their genre of music (gangsta rap) was all but un-heard of. Ice Cube would leave the group after three years due to differences between he and the groups’ manager. He alleged the manager shorted him out of cash so Cube would go on to work on his own solo career instead. Cube began writing his own rap lyrics which are often declared as overly violent and brutally honest. He began touring at Lollapalooza which would broaden his fan base and continue making albums.
After his successful career as a music artist took off, Cube would begin receiving parts to star in film alongside some very prominent Hollywood actors. His debut role would be playing the part of Doughboy in the teen hood movie Boyz n The Hood which went on to see a decent amount of success. He also went on to appear in movies like Torque, Ride Along, 21 Jump Street, Friday and Three Kings, which stars George Clooney and fellow rapper Mark Wahlberg. His most successful roles would be for the movies Barbershop and Are We There Yet? Those two films have gone on to not only receive sequels but with the help of Tyler Perry have gone on to become television sitcoms on the network TBS.
Outside of his film and music career, Ice Cube endorses Coors Light and even has his own clothing line. He makes stylish hoodies which come equipped with headphones built-in the hood strings. While they’re a bit pricey, they are quite convenient.
#6 – Martin Lawrence (Net Worth: $110 Million)
Martin Lawrence is a comedian who encountered fame in the early ‘90s when he appeared on the show Star Search. He made to the final round but ultimately did not win first place. He got into comedy after being inspired by fellow comedian Eddie Murphy, which I find funny considering Lawrence is now worth more than him. Surprisingly he was born in West Germany to two parents who were at the time serving in the United States military. After his stint on Star Search, Lawrence would land an acting role on the sitcom What’s Happening Now!! The show would soon be cancelled so Lawrence would go on to act in the film Do the Right Thing which ended up being his break out performance. After that movie he would land a deal to host Def Comedy Jam which helped give Lawrence even more mainstream comedy exposure.
Lawrence would then go on to star in his own sitcom called Martin which actually saw tremendously high ratings and would go on to air for five seasons on the network Fox. From this point on, Lawrence was able to start starring in movies and raking in $10 million per role. His most successful movies are the likes of Bad Boys which co-stars Will Smith and Blue Streak which co-stars Luke Wilson. Bad Boys would become so famous in fact, that it would receive a sequel and recently it has been announced that both a third and fourth entry to the franchise is being worked on. Other films include Big Momma’s House, National Security, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and Black Knight. Coincidentally I watched the movie Black Knight on television earlier today and while it was a box office bomb, it still is a highly entertaining comedy.
#5 – Denzel Washington (Net Worth: $140 Million)
Denzel Washington is one of the most critically acclaimed actors of all time. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Washington wouldn’t get into acting until he was already studying at Fordham University. When he was younger, Denzel had a tendency to hang with the wrong crowd. Luckily before he got into any serious trouble his parents sent him to Oakland Military Academy which he attributes to “saving his life”. During his time at Fordham University, Denzel had spent some time organizing a talent show for a group of youngsters at a local YMCA. He had so much fun as their creative director that he decided to give acting a shot. The Fall semester would start shortly after the camp ended so Denzel decided to take some acting classes. He went on to join his fellow classmates in the plays Othello and The Emperor Jones. His performances were so well received that he transferred to the American Conservatory Theater in California where he would begin his professional acting career.
Denzel would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors. He was able to land a few small roles for television but nothing too major. It wasn’t until 1982 when he would co-star in a television medical drama called St. Elsewhere that Denzel’s career would see a major break. From there he was able to see even more success and in 1989 he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the movie Glory. Since then he’s been in some of the most well-received movies of the past 20 years, including: Remember the Titans, Malcolm X, Courage Under Fire, Déjà Vu, John Q, Man on Fire, Unstoppable and Training Day which won him an Academy Award for Best Actor back in 2001. Denzel very much considers himself a man of God and has donated millions of dollars to charitable causes and has publicly stated that if he wasn’t an actor he would be a preacher. The only thing he hasn’t done yet is star in his very own superhero movie. Come on Denzel, when is it going to happen!?
#4 – Morgan Freeman (Net Worth: $150 Million)
If heaven is real and my soul gets transferred there when I die, I am going to be severely disappointed if God isn’t Morgan Freeman. Born in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, Morgan was primarily raised by his grandparents and would enter the acting business at a very young age. When he was 12 he won a statewide drama competition and continued acting all throughout high school. The head of Jackson State University offered him a full scholarship to their school but Morgan turned it down in order to valiantly serve our country and joined the United States Air Force. After four years he would return state side and move to California where he would take up acting and dancing once more. His career primarily became focused on doing theater and he became so involved that he wound up moving to New York to appear in Broadway shows.
His first on-screen performance technically occurred when he was child, when he was invited to appear on the PBS kids show The Electric Company although he discredits the show as being his break out performance due to how unhappy he was with the people involved. Morgan now considers his first appearance in front of the camera to be the film Street Smart which had Morgan teaming up with Superman himself, Christopher Reeves. The film reviewed well amongst critics and Morgan received a nomination for an Academy Award for Supporting Actor for his performance. Since then he has gone on to star in some of the greatest movies, including Se7en, Deep Impact (where he played the president), The Bucket List, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Shawshank Redemption, The Sum of All Fears, Gone Baby Gone and Lucy. He also played Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight trilogy and of course played God in the film Bruce Almighty and its sequel, Evan Almighty.
Morgan Freeman has been in a lot of great movies but what he is going to be remembered for is his deep, soothing voice. He has leant his vocal talent to movies like March of the Penguins and other Discovery Channel-related programs. It was also recently announced that you can now change your GPS’ voice to that of Morgan Freeman; although I would advise against it seeing as how his voice is so soothing that you may fall asleep on the wheel!
#3 – Samuel L. Jackson (Net Worth: $150 Million)
Not only is Samuel L. Jackson number 3 on this list, but he is also considered the number 2 most profitable actor of all time, as the total sum of all of his roles combined have reached over a staggering $7 billion. Jackson was born in Washington D.C. in the year 1948. As a child he fell in love with the ocean and its inhabitants and was all set to go to Morehouse College in Georgia to become a marine biologist (great choice!) but as time went on he decided to change majors to theater, after being involved in a local acting group. During his college years he became extremely involved with the Black Power movement. After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jackson took to the streets and began joining protests. Jackson’s mother, who feared for his safety eventually convinced Jackson to pack his things and head out to Los Angeles.
He would next start to appear in television shows and eventually gravitate towards movies. The first movie Jackson would be involved in was the 1972 independent film Together for Days. Other films in his early career include Do the Right Thing and Goodfellas. Around this time is when Jackson became addicted to heroin and cocaine. It became very severe and in fact he overdosed multiple times. Luckily he went to rehab and managed to kick the habit. Afterwards he would play a cocaine addict in the film Jungle Fever:
“It was a funny kind of thing. By the time I was out of rehab, about a week or so later I was on set and we were ready to start shooting [Jungle Fever].”
Jackson would go on to appear in other movies like Patriot Games and Jurassic Park. But it wasn’t until 1993 when he played Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction that Jackson became a household name. Critics praised his performance in the film and since then he has gone on to choose any role he wants. Some of his most popular roles include: Snakes on a Plane, Star Wars Episodes 1 – 3, Unbreakable, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.
In 2008, Jackson was approached by Marvel Studios where they would get permission to base the Ultimate Universe version of Nick Fury on him. He agreed and went on to play the live version of him during the after credits scene in Iron Man. Since then he has continued playing Nick Fury in several more Marvel films, as he signed a contract to appear in nine total films for the studio.
#2 – Will Smith (Net Worth: $240 Million)
I don’t think there is a single person on the planet who doesn’t know who Will Smith is. This legendary actor was born in 1968 to parents Willard and Caroline Smith. As he grew up, Will and his friend Jeffrey started a duo hip-hop group. Although Will received high SAT scores and easily could have gotten accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he chose to not attend college and instead focus on his rap group. During the late ‘80s he and Jeffrey would become very successful and go on to win the very first Grammy for the Rap category.
Will’s success would continue as he went on to star in his own sitcom called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was during this time that Will Smith would become a household name. When the show ended in 1996 he would go on to receive international fame with the start of his film career. He first appeared in the blockbusters Bad Boys and Independence Day. With the success of those movies he was offered the part of Neo in The Matrix but turned it down to instead appear alongside Kevin Kline in Wild Wild West. The movie would be a box office bomb but since then Will has gone on to appear in several other blockbusters, including: Hancock, Men in Black (and its sequels), Shark Tale, Hitch, Ali, I Robot and The Pursuit of Happyness.
These days, Will is more interested in appearing in films alongside his children: Jaden and Willow Smith. He has appeared alongside them in films like After Earth and I Am Legend. Lately it seems he is also interested in appearing alongside Australian beauty Margot Robbie, as they’ve already shot one movie together called Focus and are working together alongside DC’s anti-hero drama Suicide Squad.
#1 – Tyler Perry (Net Worth: $400 Million)
It should be a surprise to no one that Tyler Perry has topped the charts as the richest African-American actor as not only does he star in movies but he also directs, produces and writes the material for his films. It may seem like Tyler Perry has a great life but it hasn’t always been that way. Born in 1969 to parents Emmitt and Willie-Maxine Perry, Tyler would endure childhood trauma from his father beating him. As a way to cope with the beatings, his loving mother took him to church every week where Tyler would find solace in prayer. His upbringing would inspire him to create strong female characters that are based on his mother and sisters who also had to endure much pain.
When Tyler was in his 20s he just happened to watch an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show and in that particular episode it dealt with writing and how therapeutic the process of coming up with storylines and characters can be. This inspired Tyler to write his very first play. For the first couple of years the play, which he titled I Know I’ve Been Changed, met with negative reviews. Rather than give up completely he continued to rewrite scenes until finally it started to see some success. Since then, Tyler Perry has gone on to write, direct and perform in some very high grossing films.
In 2006, Tyler created the Madea character in the movie Madea’s Family Reunion. Since then the Madea franchise has gone on to receive seven sequels, one being an animated movie. Tyler has also created six shows which he occasionally makes appearances in: Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Meet the Browns, Love Thy Neighbor, The Haves and the Have Nots, For Better or Worse and If Loving You Is Wrong.
Outside of his own productions he has appeared in some other successful movies, namely: Star Trek (2009), Precious and Alex Cross. His next big-screen appearance will happen later this year alongside Megan Fox and Stephen Amell in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
And that’s a wrap up for the list of the richest African-American actors. Going through the list there isn’t really any surprises, as all of these gentlemen have earned their spot in the limelight. Many of these actors have gone on to inspire other people to get into the acting business which is all any great actor can do.
Did your favorite actor make it on the list? Let me know in the comments below.