Angela Evelyn Bassett Vance is an American actress, director, producer, and activist known for her biographical film roles.
Bassett was born on August 16, 1958, in New York City, the daughter of Betty Jane (née Gilbert; 1935–2014) and Daniel Benjamin Bassett (1924–1981), and was raised in Harlem. Bassett's middle name was given to her in honor of her aunt Evelyn. The origin of the Bassett surname comes from her great-grandfather William Henry Bassett, who took the surname of his former slave owner.
Ten months after Bassett was born, her mother became pregnant and had a second child, Bassett's sister D'nette. Bassett said the pregnancy "only made things harder." Bassett's parents "shipped" her to stay with her father's sister Golden. While her aunt did not have any children of her own, she "loved children, and she was good with them."
After her parents' divorce, she relocated from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she and her sister D'nette were raised by their social worker/civil servant mother. Bassett did not see her father again for several years until she attended her grandmother's funeral. There, Bassett met his daughter from his first marriage, Jean, who at twelve years old, was several years older than Bassett.
After graduating from Jordan Park Elementary School, she began being bused out of her neighborhood to attend Disston Middle School for seventh grade. The year she began attending was 1970, the first year busing was implemented to integrate public schools in St. Petersburg. After completing seventh grade, she was bused to Azalea Middle School for eighth and ninth grade. Bassett's mother became more involved in her daughter's grades and told her and her sister the pair were going to college.