On June 25, 1983, Washington married Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of his first screen work, the television film Wilma. The couple have four children: John David (b. July 28, 1984), a football player who signed with the St. Louis Rams in May 2006, after playing with the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions (and before that, college football at Morehouse); Katia (b. November 27, 1986) who graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010; and twins Olivia and Malcolm (b. April 10, 1991). Malcolm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in film studies, and Olivia played a role in Lee Daniels’s film The Butler. In 1995, Denzel and Pauletta renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.
Washington is a devout Christian, and has considered becoming a preacher. He stated in 1999, “A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising.’ I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.” In 1995, he donated $2.5 million to help build the new West Angeles Church of God in Christ facility in Los Angeles. Washington says he reads the Bible daily.
Washington has served as the national spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1993 and has appeared in public service announcements and awareness campaigns for the organization. In addition, he has served as a board member for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1995.
In mid-2004, Washington visited Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, where he participated in a Purple Heart ceremony, presenting medals to three Army soldiers recovering from wounds they received while stationed in Iraq. He also visited the fort’s Fisher House facilities, and after learning that it had exceeded its capacity, made a substantial donation to the Fisher House Foundation. Washington’s other charitable contributions include $1 million to the Children’s Fund of South Africa and $1 million to Wiley College to resuscitate the college’s debate team.
Washington is an Independent voter. He supported Barack Obama in 2008.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia named Washington as one of three people (the others being directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore) with whom they were willing to negotiate for the release of three defense contractors the group had held captive from 2003 to 2008.
On May 18, 1991, Washington was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Fordham University, for having “impressively succeeded in exploring the edge of his multifaceted talent”. In 2011, he donated $2 million to Fordham for an endowed chair of the theater department, as well as $250,000 to establish a theater-specific scholarship at the school. He also received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Morehouse College on May 20, 2007. and an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania on May 16, 2011.
In 2008, Washington visited Israel with a delegation of African-American artists in honor of the state’s 60th birthday.
In April 2014, Washington presented at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition with Bryan Cranston, Idina Menzel and Fran Drescher, after raising donations at his Broadway show Raisin in the Sun.