In the 88-year history of the Academy Awards prizes for acting have been handed out more than 300 times, yet only 15 times has a black performer been the recipient of an acting Oscar. The criticism over the lack of racial diversity at the Oscars came to a head in the last two years when not a single person of color was nominated for an acting award, resulting in the high-profile #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Click through our gallery above of all 15 occasions when a black performer won an Oscar for acting.
At the 1939 Oscars Hattie McDaniel made history, named Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Gone with the Wind.” Nearly 25 years later, Sidney Poitier was named Best Actor for his role in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field.” And it would be almost 40 more years before Denzel Washington would be only the second black actor to win in that category (for 2001’s “Training Day”), the same year that Halle Berry became the first and only black woman to win the Best Actress contest for her role in “Monster’s Ball.”
There is a strong chance that three actors could be added to this list this year. Three-time nominee Viola Davis is way out front with 1/10 odds to win Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.” Mahershala Ali is also far ahead with 2/9 odds to win in the Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Moonlight.” And Davis’s director and co-star Denzel Washington is in second place according to our odds behind Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) in the Best Actor race, but that could change following Washington’s surprise win at the SAG Awards. Should Washington pull off a win, he would join Walter Brennan, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman, Daniel Day-Lewis and Katharine Hepburn on the short list of actors who have won three or more Oscars. If Davis, Washington, and Ali all triumph, it would be the first time in Oscar history that three black performers won acting Oscars in one year.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.