At the Screen Actors Guild awards last month, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer made history as the first African American actresses to win simultaneous Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards. When the Academy Awards air Sunday Feb. 26 on ABC this milestone may be repeated.
The history of African Americans and the Oscar is troubling but hopefully improving. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar for her performance in “Gone With The Wind.” (Best Supporting Actress.) It would be an astonishing 23 years before the next African American actor took home an Oscar, Sidney Poitier in 1963 as best Actor for “Lilies of the Field.”
So far, only one African American actress has won for Best Actress, Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” in 2001.
Supporting Actor Wins: Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman” 1982, Denzel Washington for “Glory“ 1990, Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Jerry Maguire”, 1996, Morgan Freeman for “Million Dollar Baby“ , 2004.
Some nominations I think should have been made: Samuel L. Jackson in “A Time to Kill” in 1996. (He was nominated as Supporting Actor for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994.) Whoopi Goldberg for her wonderfully understated performance in “The Long Walk Home” in 1990.
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-Anne R., CADL Reference Librarian