The star of ABC's "Scandal" won trophies for outstanding actress in a drama series and supporting actress in a motion picture for "Django Unchained".
"This award does not belong to me," said Washington, who plays a slave separated from her husband in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." "It belongs to our ancestors. We shot this film on a slave plantation, and they were with us along every step of the way."
The actress also won the President's Award in recognition of her exceptional public service.
The best picture award went to "Red Tails," a drama about the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering all-black World War II pilot squad.
Denzel Washington won as best actor in a motion picture for "Flight."
Viola Davis won an award for outstanding actress in a motion picture for "Won't Back Down" and Omar Epps for supporting actor in a drama series for Fox's "House."
LL Cool J, who was honored as outstanding actor in a drama series for CBS' "NCIS: Los Angeles," paid his respects to fellow nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, "The Green Mile" actor who died last year.
The ceremony at the Shrine auditorium honored the achievements of people of color in entertainment, literature and promoting social justice.
Founded in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.