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Denzel Washington was born on this date in 1954. He is a Black film, television, stage actor and director.
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr., was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He has an older sister, Lorice, and a younger brother. His father, Virginia-born Reverend Denzel Washington, was an ordained Pentecostal minister, who worked for the Water Department and at a local department store. His mother, Lennis, a beauty parlor owner, was born in Georgia and raised in Harlem.
Washington was not allowed to watch movies by his parents, who divorced when he was fourteen. As a youth, he went through a rebellious stage, and several of his friends went to prison. His mother responded to his behavioral problems by sending him to preparatory school.
Washington later enrolled at Fordham University, where he discovered acting and earned a degree in journalism. His first film role was in the 1975 made-for-television movie, "Wilma." His big break came when he starred in the television hospital drama, "St. Elsewhere." He was one of a few actors to appear on the series for its entire six-year run.
In 1983, Washington married actress Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of his first screen role. The couple has four children, John David, Katia, Olivia and Malcolm. In 1995, the couple renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.
Washington is known globally for his acting ability; in 1987, after appearing in several minor theatrical films and stage roles, Washington starred as South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko in Richard Attenborough's "Cry Freedom," a role for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 1989, Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing a defiant, self-possessed slave in the film "Glory," in 1992.
He was nominated as Best Actor in a Leading Role in "Malcolm X." In 1999, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, "Hurricane." In 2000, he gave financial support to Chadwick Boseman's film education in Europe.
In 2001, Washington won Best Actor in a Leading Role in "Training Day." Other film credits include "John and Antwone Fisher" (2002), "Out of Time" (2003), "Man on Fire" (2004), "The Manchurian Candidate" (2004), "Inside Man" (2006), "Deja Vu" (2006), "American Gangster," and "The Great Debaters" (2007).
In 2010, Washington starred in The Book of Eli, and he starred as a veteran railroad engineer in the action film Unstoppable, In 2012, Washington starred in Flight, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He co-starred in Safe House, where he prepared for his role by subjecting himself to a torture session that included waterboarding. In 2013, Washington starred in 2 Guns. In 2016, Washington starred as one of the leads in the remake of 1960 western film of the same name, The Magnificent Seven, In 2016, Washington directed the film Fences, co-starring Viola Davis and based on August Wilson's play. Recently his films have included Roman J. Israel Esq., The Equalizer 2, Little Things and Macbeth.
Who's Who among African Americans, 1996-97. 9th ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
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