Since the Academy Awards were first handed out in 1929, only 19 Oscars have been awarded to performances by Black actresses and actors (out of 352 total acting trophies). Hattie McDaniel made history for Black performers by winning for “Gone With the Wind” (supporting in 1939), while Sidney Poitier was the first male actor to prevail for “Lilies of the Field” (lead in 1963). Denzel Washington became the first two-time Black acting champion when he claimed victory for “Glory” (supporting in 1989) and “Training Day” (lead in 2001), with Mahershala Ali joining him years later for “Moonlight” (supporting in 2016) and “Green Book” (supporting in 2018). Halle Berry was the first, and so far only, Black Best Actress thanks to “Monster’s Ball” (2001). The acting category with the most Black winners is Best Supporting Actress, with eight including recent champ Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018). Tour our photo gallery above of every Black actress and actor who won Academy Awards.
Let’s take a closer look at all four Oscar acting categories:
So far just Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) has prevailed thanks to her role as a poverty-stricken woman who develops a relationship with a racist prison guard.
Four men have claimed this leading prize through the years: Poitier for “Lilies of the Field” as a gentle handyman, Washington for “Training Day” as a corrupt Los Angeles narcotics officer, Jamie Foxx for “Ray” as the legendary R&B singer and Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland” as the maniacal Ugandan president.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The eight champions are: McDaniel for “Gone with the Wind” as a strong-willed house slave, Whoopi Goldberg for “Ghost” as a psychic, Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls” as the outspoken member of a singing group, Mo’Nique for “Precious” as an abusive mother, Octavia Spencer for “The Help” as an opinionated maid, Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave” as a slave girl, Viola Davis for “Fences” as the wife of a waste collector and King for “If Beale Street Could Talk” as a mother trying to clear an innocent man’s name.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
These five featured performers account for six victories in this category: Louis Gossett Jr. for “An Officer and a Gentleman” as a brutal drill sergeant, Washington for “Glory” as a former slave who reluctantly fights for the Union Army, Cuba Gooding Jr. for “Jerry Maguire” as a flamboyant professional football player, Morgan Freeman for “Million Dollar Baby” as a janitor and former boxer, Ali for “Moonlight” as a drug dealer and surrogate father, and Ali again for “Green Book” as a talented concert pianist.
Be sure to make your Emmy nominations predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the nominees are announced on July 28. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Emmy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.