In the 81 year history of The Academy Awards only 12 African-American actors have taken home the coveted trophy. Last month Taraji P. Henson(The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Viola Davis(Doubt) became only the 41st and 42nd black actors to be nominated in the history of the awards show.
Hattie McDaniel opened the door with her Oscar win for best supporting actress for her performance as Mammy in Gone With The Wind(1939), and twenty four years later Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win a best actor trophy for his performance in Lillies of The Field(1963).
Over the next forty-five years black actors would garner over forty nominations but only ten people would experience the thrill of being placed among Hollywood's elite. Among those actors were Denzel Washington(Glory,Training Day), Whoopi Goldberg(Ghost), Cuba Gooding Jr.(Jerry Maguire), Jennifer Hudson(Dreamgirls),Jammie Foxx(Ray), and who could forget Halle Berry's monumental win in the best actress category for her performance in Monster's Ball. Berry's win will go down in history for being the first black woman to win an Oscar for best actress.
The sad reality of black actors being overlooked during much of the Academy's history is a testament to the existence of racism even in progressive Hollywood circles.
Let's take a look at those special Oscar moments where a win for a black actor was not only a personal achievement but an achievement for the entire African-American community. Click on the actors name to view their acceptance speech or a clip of the performance that earned them their Oscar.
-"Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you."
Cuba Gooding Jr.
"This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women who stand beside me- Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it's for every nameless faceless woman of color who now has the chance tonight because this door has been opened".