Black Artists Historically Overlooked in Oscars, Academy Works to Combat Diversity

Black Artists Historically Overlooked in Oscars, Academy Works to Combat Diversity

by Stacy M. Brown

In the nearly 100-year history since founding the Academy Awards, those who choose the recipients have faced persistent criticism for overlooking Black talent within the film industry.

A seasoned film critic, Shawn Edwards, expressed frustration in a 2023 discussion, emphasizing the Academy’s failure to acknowledge Black talent, especially women, both on and off the screen.

“It has become exhausting complaining about the motion picture academy and its failure to acknowledge Black talent,” Edwards wrote.

Despite a historical oversight of African American artists, there have been moments where Black talent broke through hurdles of barriers to claim well-deserved recognition.

Hattie McDaniel made history in 1939, becoming the first African American actor to win an Oscar for her supporting role in “Gone With the Wind.” Twenty-four years later Sidney Poitier followed suit in 1963, securing the Oscar for Best Actor in “Lilies of the Field.”

In 2001, Halle Berry shattered ceilings with her performance in “Monster’s Ball,” becoming the first and, to date, only African American woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress. The list of accomplished Black actors who have claimed Oscars includes Louis Gossett Jr., Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morgan Freeman, Mahershala Ali, and Will Smith.

Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, showcased his versatility with a Best Actor win for “Training Day” (2001) and a Supporting Actor win for “Glory” (1989). Foxx left an indelible mark in 2004, winning the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray” and securing a nomination for his supporting role in “Collateral.”

Whitaker’s depiction of an African dictator in “The Last King of Scotland” (2006) earned him the Best Actor Oscar, highlighting the recognition of Black actors in nuanced and diverse roles.

Emphasizing the consistent excellence of Black talent, Ali achieved back-to-back wins for Best Supporting Actor in “Moonlight” (2016) and “Green Book” (2018).

The supporting categories also witnessed exceptional performances by Black actresses. Whoopi Goldberg stole hearts in “Ghost” (1990), Jennifer Hudson delivered a memorable performance in “Dreamgirls” (2006), Lupita Nyong’o left an indelible mark with her role in “12 Years a Slave” (2013), and Octavia Spencer captivated audiences in “The Help” (2011).

“Black stories matter. Black filmmakers matter. Black talent matters, and they deserve to hear their names called when the best of the best is honored,” Edwards declared.

The #OscarsSoWhite movement, ignited by a viral tweet from April Reign in 2015, highlighted the lack of diversity in major award nominations. The movement led to a significant boycott of the 2016 Oscars by influential figures like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith.

The impact of #OscarsSoWhite extended beyond the Oscars, influencing discussions about diversity and representation in other major award shows, including the Grammys and Golden Globes.

In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pledged to address its diversity and inclusion issues.

By September 2020, in conjunction with the Academy Aperture 2025 initiative, the Oscars released a statement announcing it had updated representation and inclusion standards for eligibility in the Best Picture category.

​​“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them. The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson.  “We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Set to be broadcast on ABC on March 10, the 96th Annual Academy Awards ceremony sets up as a night of celebration, with audiences witnessing a menu that includes Black excellence.

Here’s a closer look at the five African Americans nominated for Oscars this year:

  • Danielle Brooks: Best Actress In A Supporting Role nominee, The Color Purple”
  • Sterling K. Brown: Best Actor In A Supporting Role nominee, “American Fiction”
  • Colman Domingo: Best Actor In A Leading Role nominee, “Rustin”
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph: Best Actress In A Supporting Role nominee, “The Holdovers”

Jeffrey Wright: Best Actor In A Leading Role nominee, “American Fiction”

Source: Published without changes from Washington Informer Newspaper

error: Content is protected !!