A first Oscar in 1940
On the occasion of the 12e Oscar ceremony, February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the very first African American to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in Gone with the wind. The actress was unable to attend the premiere of the film screened in a cinema for whites only. On the evening of the Oscars ceremony, the Ambassador Hotel, also reserved for whites, allows her to be present… at a table separate from the other guests. Died in 1952, Hattie McDaniel expressed the wish to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery, a request refused by this place then reserved for whites.
Sidney Poitier makes history
Sidney Poitier becomes the first black actor to win an Oscar on April 13, 1964. Poitier obtains the statuette for best actor in a leading role for his incarnation of Homer Smith in the feature film Lilies of the field (Lily of the fields), a comedy-drama directed by Ralph Nelson. The announcement is made by actress Ann Bancroft. Very moved, Poitier evokes a “long journey to reach this moment”.
In 2002, Poitier will receive an honorary Oscar for his entire career.
A landmark speech by Eddie Murphy
With The man who planted trees, Frédéric Back won the second Oscar of his career and with The last emperor, Bernardo Bertolucci made a perfect score of nine trophies in nine caps. But Eddie Murphy’s speech denouncing the absence of blacks also marks this 60e Oscar party on April 11, 1988. Presenter of the evening’s last prize for best film (The last emperor), Murphy declares: “I will probably never win an Oscar for denouncing this situation, but at the rate things are going, a black man wins an Oscar for interpretation every 20 years …”
The big disappointments of Spike Lee
Before it even started, the 62e Oscars party in 1990 is tinged with a certain unease that Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee’s punchy film, is reduced to two small nominations, best supporting actor (Daniel Aiello, a white actor who played the owner of the pizzeria where the action is located) and best original screenplay ( Spike Lee). The film leaves empty-handed. In 2019, while his film BlacKkKlansman was nominated six times at the Oscars (he won the award for best adapted screenplay), Spike Lee is furious to see the feature film Green Book receive the Oscar for best film of the year. Some, among observers and specialists, have estimated that Green Book was a formatted movie and too nice.
John Singleton, first Black named best director
In this 64e Oscar party, in the spring of 1992, the young director John Singleton, 24, became the first black nominated in the category of best director with Boyz n the Hood. The prize, however, goes to Jonathan Demme for Thesilenceofthelambs. Since then, Lee Daniels (Precious), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Jordan Peele (Get out) and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) were finalists in this category without winning the statuette. On the other hand, note that 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture.
The Denzel Washington – Halle Berry double
Two comedians from the black community, Halle Berry (Monster’s ball) and Denzel Washington (Training Day), won the Oscars for best leading female and male roles in 2002. Halle Berry becomes the first black woman to win the trophy for best actress during this ceremony hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. To this day, Halle Berry remains the only black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress. That could change on Sunday night because Viola Davis (My Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) are finalists in this highly regarded category.
The white selection of 2015
Shortly after realizing that the 20 actors and actresses finalists for the awards for best performance are all white, in January 2015, media strategist and activist for diversity and inclusion April Reign launched the famous hashtag #OscarsSoWhite . This gesture will quickly be picked up and multiplied on social networks. This initiative was central in the movement started at the Academy of Oscars to diversify its membership with the aim of having a ripple effect on nominees in all categories.
2021, the year of all records
What about this year? Of the six Black Actors finalists, three are in the Best Supporting Actor category. They are Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) and Leslie Odom Jr (One Night in Miami). Dead in August 2020, Chadwick Boseman is a finalist for the best actor award thanks to his performance in My Rainey’s Black Bottom.
For the first time in history, a team made up entirely of black producers (Shaka King, Ryan Coogler, Charles D. King) sends a film (Judas and the Black Messiah) in competition for the Oscar for best feature film. Finalist with My Rainey’s Black Bottom, Viola Davis made history by becoming the first black actress nominated four times in her career. Still in the movie My Rainey’s …, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson become the first black women finalists in the Makeup and Hairstyles category. Black artisans are present in several other categories (documentaries, animation, music, etc.).
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93rd Academy Awards | Academy Awards, an African-American story