African-American Oscar History Pt. 1

In honor of Black History Month

Celebrating the accomplishments of Black Artists in Hollywood; especially in light of the lack of African-American nominations for this year’s 87th Academy Awards.


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Oscars 2015: No black actors or female screenwriters, directors or cinematographers were nominated.

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Our First Best Actor

In 1958, Sidney Poiter became the first black actor to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category for “The Defiant Ones.” In 1963, he went on to make history and become the first to win the Oscar for Best Actor in “Lillies of the Field.” I saw the film as a kid and although it was quite popular never expected him to take home the statue.

However, Hollywood did love him. I believe they saw him as non-threatening due to his mild-mannered characterizations. He was quoted as saying he had concerns that he would be seen as a token and never given any substantial roles. Well, his Detective Virgil Tibbs in the film “In the Heat of the Night” sure put that fear to bed. Slapping a white man in racist Mississippi in 1967 was a bold and hand clapping moment in the theater. Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor and the film won five Academy Awards, including the 1967 award for Best Picture.


Sidney Poiter

Sidney Poiter 1963 Oscar for Best Actor


Oscar Accomplishments:

  • First African-American nominated for Best Actor award

  • First black male to win an Oscar

  • First black actor to win Best Actor

  • First to receive two acting nominations (Best Actor)

  • Youngest black actor to win Best Actor (37)



It took 36 years for another win in the Best Actor category, but finally Denzel Washington was recognized by the Academy for his portrayal of Alonso Harris in “Training Day” making him the second black actor to win the Oscar.

1999 also marked the first time two African-American performers won leading role Oscars in the same year. (Halle Berry, “Monster’s Ball“)


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Denzel Washington and Halle Berry “Best Actors.”

Denzel Washington has the most nominations for an African-American Actor: Best Actor (4 nominations) and Best Supporting Actor (2 nominations).


Jamie Foxx 2004 Oscar Best Actor

Jamie Foxx 2004 Oscar Best Actor

Jamie Foxx was awarded the 2004 Oscar for Best Actor as Ray Charles in the biopic “Ray”.  That same year, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the action film Collateral making him the first African-American actor to receive two acting nominations in the same year.


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Forest Whitaker Best Actor 2006

Forest Whitaker is the fourth and most recent African-American male to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film “The Last King of Scotland.”


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Best Supporting Actor

First Nominated:  Rupert Crosse“The Reivers” 1969

First to Win: Louis Gossett, Jr – “An Officer and a Gentleman” 1982

Winner: Supporting Actor – Denzel Washington “Glory” 1989

Youngest African-American male actor to win an Academy Award (age 29) – Cuba Gooding, Jr. “Jerry Maguire” 1996

Oldest African-American actor to win an Academy Award (age 67) – Morgan Freeman “Million Dollar Baby” 2004



 Congratulations and Cheers to these exceptional artists!

Part two in this series will focus on the achievements of African-American Women in film.



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