17 Black Women Who Deserve Their Own Biopics

Not enough roles for black women in Hollywood? Let’s make some!

1. Alice Walker / Thandie Newton

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Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

 

Setting: Anderson Valley, Calif. / 1985

Potential Plot: While Alice Walker is certainly excited about the prospect of her book, The Color Purple, becoming a movie, she can’t help but wonder if it’s the right decision. Will the director stay true to the story, or will her provocative novel be turned into something barely recognizable?

2. Grace Jones / Lupita Nyong’o

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Danny Moloshok / Reuters / Reuters

 

Setting: New York City & Paris / 1970

Potential Plot: Raised in a strict religious home, a young Grace Jones travels to Syracuse, N.Y., to be reunited with her parents. Upon her arrival, she is suddenly swept up in the worlds of theater and fashion, eventually making her way to Paris and becoming one of the hottest models on the catwalk.

3. Toni Morrison / Uzo Aduba

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Brad Barket / Getty Images for VH1

 

Setting: Washington, D.C. / 1970

Potential Plot: A 40-year-old single mother struggles to write her first novel while raising her two young sons. She is determined to write the story she’s always wanted to read. But will the world respond to her words?

4. Madame C.J. Walker / Queen Latifah

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Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

 

Setting: St. Louis / 1901

Potential Plot: After the death of her husband, a 20-year-old black woman moves to St. Louis, and makes less than a dollar a day as a washer girl. She goes on to find her fortune as an entrepreneur in hair care products, eventually becoming the country’s first black female millionaire.

5. Aretha Franklin / Amber Riley

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Phil Mccarten / Reuters

 

Setting: Detroit / 1956

Potential Plot: A 15-year-old gospel songstress and mother leaves her two children behind to go on tour with her father’s band. While on the road she has the opportunity to record an album and must quickly decide how to balance motherhood with a dream.

6. Mary McLeod Bethune / Oprah Winfrey

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

 

Setting: Daytona Beach, Fla. / 1904

Potential Plot: In 1904, Mary Bethune has one dream: to be a schoolteacher in her very own schoolhouse for black girls. She will have to face government betrayal, nervous civilians, and her own fears in order to make her dream come true.

7. Vonetta McGee / Kerry Washington

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Setting: Los Angeles / 1968

Potential Plot: With Blaxploitation films at the height of popularity, a young actress finds herself struggling with her personal politics, directors who can’t keep their hands to themselves, and the overwhelming shadow of Pam Grier.

8. Hattie McDaniel / Mo’Nique

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Getty / Kevin Winter

 

Setting: Los Angeles / 1942

Potential Plot: After winning an Academy Award for her role in Gone With The Wind, Hattie believes she has made it. But is Hollywood ready to create roles for black women beyond maids and slaves, and will Hattie ever get to be the leading lady?

9. Eartha Kitt / Jurnee Smollett

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Matt Sayles/Invision / AP

 

Setting: New York City / 1943

Potential Plot: Kicked out of her stepfather’s home for being a “half-breed,” Eartha Kitt is determined to prove to her mother and the rest of the world that she’s nobody’s trash to be put out on the street. She’s a star.

10. Zora Neale Hurston / Angela Bassett

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Setting: Fort Pierce, Fla. / 1959

Potential Plot: After a full life of adventure and literary pursuits, Hurston finds herself in a mess of failing health, medical bills, and financial insecurity. Over the course of her illness, she begins responding to fan letters, hoping to find a friend for the end of her life.

11. Dr. Maya Angelou / Octavia Spencer

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Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

 

Setting: New York City / 1968

Potential Plot: After the murder of her friend and leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou can hardly bear to leave her room. When her confidant, James Baldwin, comes to coax her out of the darkness, she finds the will to confront the world again, and to write her truth in the process.

12. Shirley Chisholm / Viola Davis

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Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

 

Setting: Washington, D.C. / 1972

Potential Plot: Education is the key to a meaningful life for Shirley Chisholm, but there is more to be done outside the classroom. If she truly wants to change the world, she’ll have to learn to play a dangerous game: politics.

13. Octavia Butler / Jennifer Hudson

Malcolm Ali / Wire Image

Kevork Djansezian / Reuters

 

Setting: Los Angeles / 1976

Potential Plot: Can a painfully shy woman with dyslexia save herself with a rich imagination and an idea for a novel that could set the science fiction world on fire?

14. Harriet Tubman / Kim Wayans

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Phil Mccarten / Reuters

 

Setting: Maryland / 1857

Potential Plot: After eight years, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman is proud of the fact that she has never run her train off the tracks, and she has yet to lose a passenger. She is taking one last trip across the Mason-Dixon Line, and this time she’s carrying the most precious cargo of all: her parents.

15. Angela Davis / Anika Noni Rose

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Valerie Macon / Getty Images

 

Setting: Marin County, Calif. / 1970

Potential Plot: In the midst of civil unrest, Angela Davis, a known freedom fighter, finds herself fighting racist institutions on the streets, and misogyny and colorism behind closed doors.

16. Moms Mabley / Regina Hall

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Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

 

Setting: New York City / 1926

Potential Plot: In the 1920s and ’30s a black woman in androgynous clothing starts doing stand-up comedy. Though sometimes billed as “lesbian comedy,” Jackie Mabley makes people laugh against a background of injustice. What’s it like to be the funniest woman in America, when America doesn’t love you?

17. Assata Shakur / Teyonah Parris

Jordan Strauss/Invision / AP

 

Setting: New Jersey / 1973 & Cuba / Present

Potential Plot: Assata Shakur was prepared for death in service to the fight for equality. She was not prepared for exile. What happens to a young woman whose country calls her “terrorist”? This is the story of deception, propaganda, and the fight to bring her home.

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