Anna Deavere Smith is an American actress, playwright, and professor in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She formerly taught in the drama department at Stanford University. She may best be known as the author of Fires in the Mirror, which dealt with the 1991 Crown Heights Riot, and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, which dealt with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, both of which featured Smith as the sole performer. In 1993 Newsweek declared her as "The most exciting individual in American theater." Smith is the author of Talk to me: Listening between the lines published in 2000. Smith has appeared in several films, such as Philadelphia, The American President, and had recurring roles on The West Wing and The Practice.
Smith was one of the 1996 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as the "genius grant." She also won a 2006 Fletcher Foundation Fellowship for her contribution to civil rights issues.