6 Inspiring African American Female Directors in the Film Industry


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Since the early days, black women have significantly contributed to the movie industry. Here, we’ll recognize six top African American female directors. 

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Shonda Lynn Rhimes

Shonda Lynn Rhimes speaking at TED. Video Credit: @TED YouTube Channel

Born on 13 January 1970 in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Shonda Lynn Rhimes is an African American producer, screenwriter, and author. She’s the founder of Shondaland, a Television production company. 

As of 2023, Shonda Lynn Rhimes is among the richest female entertainers in the US, with a net worth of $250 million. Shonda became popular as the head writer, creator, and executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy”, a medical drama and “Scandal”, a political thriller.

Furthermore, she served as the executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” from 2014 to 2020. And executive producer of “Bridgerton” from 2020 till present. 

Besides being a movie director, Shonda is also a best-seller author. The director became a published author in 2015 when she launched “Year of Yes“. Rhimes’ books are available on Amazon

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Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay on building her career as a director. Video Credit: @CBSSundayMorning YouTube Channel

Ava DuVernay is among the African American film directors making waves in the entertainment industry. She has received several awards for her work, including a BAFTA Film Award,  NAACP Image Award and  Primetime Emmy Award. 

After her directorial debut movie, “I Will Follow” in  2010, she won the directing award in the United States dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second movie “Middle of Nowhere“. This award made her the first black woman to win an award. 

She was also the first African American woman nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for her biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. In 2017, Time included her in their list of 100 most influential people in the world. 

Lena Waithe

The Rise of Lena Waithe. Video Credit: @IMDb YouTube Channel

Born on May 17, 1984, Lena Waithe is a black screenwriter, actress, and producer. Lena Waithe is the creator of “The Chi“, a showtime drama series and “Twenties“.

She’s also the executive producer of the horror anthology series “Them” and the crime film “Queen & Slim“. These Lena Waithe films are available on Amazon

Lena Waithe became popular for her role in  “Master of None“, a Netflix comedy-drama series. Her outstanding writing for “Thanksgiving“, a Comedy Series, earned the Primetime Emmy Award. She was the first black woman to receive the award. 

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Regina King

Regina King on directing “One Night in Miami”. Video Credit: @CBSSundayMorning YouTube Channel

Regina Rene King is an African American actress and director. She was born on 15 January 1971 in Los Angeles, California, United States. 

The actress and director has received several awards, including:

  • Golden Globe Award
  • Academy Award
  • Primetime Emmy Award

She came into the limelight for starring Brenda Jenkins in 227, a television series.  Regina Rene King has directed episodes for many TV shows, including “Scandal” and “This Is Us”. In addition to TV shows, Regina also directed the “Finding My Way Back” music video, a song by Jaheim. Her feature movie directorial debut came with “One Night in Miami”. 

Janet Mock

Janet Mock Belief Story. Video Credit: @janetmock YouTube Channel

Born March 10, 1983, in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, Janet Mock is an African American television host, producer, director, writer, and transgender activist. 

After Janet Mock graduated from New York University, she worked with People Magazine as a staff editor for over five years. In 2011, her journalism career moved from editor to advocate when she publicly mentioned Marie Claire’s article that she’s a trans woman. 

Mock later left People Magazine and went on to host TakePart Live and her own culture show. On December 5, 2016, her movie, “The Trans List“, aired on HBO. She produced the film with director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Mock is a writer, director, and producer on Pose, a television show that debuted on FX on June 3, 2018. In fact, Janet Mock is the first trans woman of color hired as a writer for a TV series in history.

Hanelle Culpepper

Discussion on “The End Is Near”, directed by Hanelle Culpepper. Video Credit: @zennie62 YouTube Channel

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, US, Hanelle Culpepper is a black American moviemaker known for TV directing episodes of 90210, Criminal Minds, Parenthood, Grimm, and Star Trek: Discovery, Revenge

Before Hanelle Culpepper started working in television, she directed and produced short films and worked as a production assistant. Hanelle Culpepper also directed Within in 2009, “Deadly Sibling Rivalry” in 2011, “Murder on the 13th Floor” in 2012 and “Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer” in 2013.

The film industry wouldn’t be complete without the contributions of African American women. Over the years, black people have contributed to the growth of the industry. 

The six African American female directors covered here have written their names in gold in the movie industry through their exceptional and creative works. You can easily find and watch their movies on Amazon Prime

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Uchenna Agwu
Uchenna Agwu
Hi there! I’m Uchenna Agwu, and I love to write. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me reading books or watching documentaries (I’m a bit of a nerd). But I also like to get out and explore – whether that means going on hikes or checking out new restaurants.


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