As I prepare to cover the 2023 Academy Award celebrations this Sunday, March 12th, the issues surrounding inclusion and diversity are again taking a front space in my mind.
Much like the rest of the world, the Academy struggles with addressing the issue on the broadest levels because “diversity” and “inclusion” isn’t only a Black or White issue. There are so many marginalized people that fall into that category and subcategories. And I am not suggesting that a deep dive isn’t needed (I know it is) but for 2023, I want to focus on all of the African American Oscar winners to date, since it started in 1929.
And since that inaugural date, only 22 Oscars have been given to
performances given by African American actors and actresses. The first to step (body) into the history books was Hattie McDaniel for her winning role in “Gone With the Wind”(supporting in 1939). That was followed by a win for the great Sidney Poitier for his role in “Lilies of the Field” (lead in 1963). He was the first male actor to snag an Oscar. Denzel Washington became the first two-time African-American winner taking home the gold for “Glory” (supporting in 1989) and “Training Day” (lead in 2001). Mahershala Ali won for “Moonlight” (supporting in 2016) and “Green Book” (supporting in 2018).
Halle Berry was the first, and so far only, African-American Best Actress for her riveting role in “Monster’s Ball” (2001). Other winners—in the acting category is represented in the Best Supporting Actress, with nine including Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story” (2021).
The list goes as follows: Hattie McDaniel“Gone with the Wind” (1939); Sidney Poitier’s “Lilies of the Field” (1963); Louis Gossett Jr. “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982); Denzel Washington’s “Glory” (1989); Whoopi Goldberg “Ghost” (1990); Cuba Gooding Jr. “Jerry Maguire” (1996); Halle Berry “Monster’s Ball” (2001); Denzel Washington’s “Training Day” (2001); Morgan Freeman’s “Million Dollar Baby” (2004); Jamie Foxx’s “Ray” (2004); Forest Whitaker’s “The Last King of Scotland” (2006); Jennifer Hudson “Dreamgirls” (2006); Mo’Nique “Precious” (2009); Octavia Spencer “The Help” (2011); Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years a Slave” (2013); Viola Davis “Fences” (2016); Mahershala Ali “Moonlight” (2016); Mahershala Ali “Green Book” (2018); Regina King “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018); Daniel Kaluuya’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2020); Will Smith’s
“King Richard” (2021) and Ariana DeBose “West Side Story” (2021).
Early in the race critics and film insiders were hopeful that director Gina Prince- Bythewood’s “The Woman King” would snag a best picture nod, along with the best director of the seasoned storyteller. There was disappointment shared across the space when neither Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) nor Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) received a nomination with many insiders calling it a “shut out” of lead actress after months at the
front of the race. As veteran award strategists pondered the absence when a fairly unknown, white actress, Andrea Riseborough was nominated for her performance in the drama “To Leslie” it was — to many minds — answered. It’s interesting to note that the indie film (at the time of filing) has only made a measly 31,543 USD.
This year there are five African American women nominated for Oscars and all from the Marvel superhero sequel: Angela Bassett (supporting actress), Ruth E. Carter (costume design), Camile Friend (makeup and hairstyling), and Rihanna and Tens (original song). The other African American nominee is Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”, for best-supporting actor).
The 95th Oscars will air live on ABC on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
For a complete list of nominees for the 95th Oscars, click here.