A New York native, Kerry Washington performed with the Tada theater teen group and later graduated from The Spence School in Manhattan. She earned a Presidential Arts Scholarship to attend The George Washington University and, in 1994, was a winner of the YoungArts national program. In 1998 Washington graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from The George Washington University.
Washington's Hollywood career quickly took off after her role in the 2001 film Save the Last Dance, where she received a Teen Choice Award for Best Breakout Performance. In 2002 she starred in Lift, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for her role as Niecy. Then in 2004 she received the Hollywood Life Breakthrough Award, and the following year received the Young Artist Award from Americans for the Arts for her exemplary leadership. That same year Washington won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Della Bea Robinson, the wife of famed Ray Charles, who was played by Jamie Foxx in the film Ray.
Washington has garnered critical acclaim for her roles in The Last King of Scotland, opposite Forest Whitaker—which earned her a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards in 2007—and for The Dead Girl and Lakeview Terrace, opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Patrick Wilson. More recently she has starred in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, with Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad and Janet Jackson, as well as in Night Catches Us, where she received an NAACP nomination for Best Actress. Most recently she was cast as the starring role in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film, Django Unchained, opposite Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio.
On television Washington appeared in Howard Zinn's documentary, The People Speak, with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn, which premiered on the History Channel in 2009. She is also the voice of Princess Shuri in the BET animated series Black Panther. In 2010 she made her Broadway debut in David Mamet's provocative hit, Race.
Aside from her acting career, Washington is an active member of the V-Counsel, serves on the board of non-profit arts and education group Voices of a People's History, and has received accolades including U.S. Conference of Mayors' Artist-Citizen Award for public leadership in the arts. In 2009 Washington was appointed by President Obama to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Washington was born in the Bronx and currently resides in Los Angeles.