The 43-year-old actress will play Shirley – who became the first black Congresswoman in the 1960s when she represented New York’s 12th district – in the as-yet-untitled biographical film, which is being produced for Amazon by JuVee, the production house she owns with her husband Julius Tennon .
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Viola said: "I hope to educate, because a lot of people don’t know who she was."
Shirley was also the first woman of any race to run for president from a major political party, in her case, as a Democrat.
The movie will tell the story of Shirley – who passed away in 2005 – as she became a civil rights pioneer throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
Viola and her husband will both produce the feature for Amazon, which comes as the first of a series of politically themed films the couple makes for the streamer.
Maggie Betts is on board to direct from a screenplay by Adam Countee and produced with Homegrown Pictures’ Stephanie Allain.
Speaking about their deal with Amazon, Julius said: "We want do the same thing – make content that highlights people of colour across the globe."
News of Viola’s deal with Amazon was first reported in November, thought at the time it was unclear what she would be doing with the company.
Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement at the time: "Amazon Studios is passionate about building a home for both new and established filmmakers of all backgrounds, who share the same vision in telling incredible and engaging human stories.
"Viola and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions brings distinctive, fresh voices and high-quality content to our customers in both theaters and on Prime Video."