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Only 13 Black People Have Won Oscars – Why?

Since its inception in 1929, only 13 black people have won Oscars. We ask if black people will ever get recognition from the world’s most influential film awards?

Before we even get into discussing the issue of black representation at the Oscars, let’s first briefly put into context how the Academy Awards work.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science website describes in detail how the Academy Awards work, explaining that there is an Academy membership body that only artists who work in the production of theatre-released motion pictures can be part of.

One can either be sponsored by two people that are currently members of the Academy in their branch (for example, an actor would need two other actors to endorse them) or would have to be nominated for an Oscar to stand a chance to become a member.

“Nominees and sponsored candidates are reviewed by branch committees, and recommendations for membership are considered by the Academy’s Board of Governors. The Board decides which individuals will receive invitations,” they say.

The Academy members vote for the Oscar winners in the different categories per branch, so actors would then vote for actors, directors for directors and so on (all branches can vote for Best Picture).


According to The Los Angeles Times, 94% of the membership was white in 2012 (at an average age of 63), and black people only made up 3% of the organisation. The real problem lies in the lack of diversity in the voting body, and because an overwhelming majority of the members are white, and predominantly male, this allows for discrimination and prejudice as far as the voting process is concerned.

This begs the question: if a majority of a body that honours great cinematography and film from across the globe is predominately white, how is it possible for everyone to have a fair and equal chance of being recognised and receiving the honour due to them?

Film writer and director Akin Omotoso says the voting system needs to be re-evaluated, and if need be, restructured so as to be more inclusive and fair.

“I think the people voting are not representative of the world we live in on a grander scale. I’m not a member of the Academy, but from what I read, the problem has nothing to do with the films, but is about who’s watching them and deciding that they are representative of 365 days of excellence in cinema,” he told DESTINY MAN

Akin Omotoso.

Akin Omotoso.

Omotoso says that in a climate where there is obviously on-parr talent, it makes no sense that certain films are just not being recognised.


“The Academy is that industry’s way of judging its talent, so they are important – they have the power to change someone’s career and weight in the industry. The voting system has to change and the demographic needs to be more inclusive for any kind of real change to happen,” he says.


David Carr writes in The New York Times that the Academy manages diversity in a non-transformative way.

“[They] tick boxes . . . That means that after Kathryn Bigelow won as Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker — the only female director to have won in the Award’s 87 years — there was no reason to even nominate her again for the extraordinary Zero Dark Thirty. The “woman thing” had been checked off already. And it also means that even though 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, its director, Steve McQueen, did not receive similar acclaim because that win took care of “the black thing,” he writes.

Spike Lee, who’s never won an Oscar, but received an honorary award for his contribution to cinema last year, says that the next time we’ll see black people on the Oscar stage will probably be ten years from now.

“Anyone who thinks this year was gonna be like last year is retarded. There were a lot of black folks up there with 12 Years a Slave, Steve [McQueen], Lupita [Nyong’o], Pharrell. It’s in cycles of every 10 years. Once every 10 years or so I get calls from journalists about how people are finally accepting black films,” he told The Daily Beast in 2015.


Since the Academy Awards began in 1929, only 13 black people have had the honour of receiving the award.

These include:

  1. 1939  Hattie McDaniel for Gone With the Wind
    Best Supporting Actress
  2. 1963  Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field
    Best Actor
  3. 1982  Louis Gossett Jr for An Officer and a Gentlemen
    Best Supporting Actor
  4. 1989  Denzel Washington for Glory
    Best Supporting Actor
  5. 1990 Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost
    Best Supporting Actress
  6. 1996 Cuba Gooding Jr for Jerry Maguire
    Best Supporting Actor
  7. 2001 Denzel Washington for Training Day
    Best Actor
  8. 2001 Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball
    Best Actress
  9. 2004 Jamie Foxx for Ray
    Best Actor
  10. 2004  Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby
    Best Supporting Actor
  11. 2006 Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland
    Best Actor
  12. 2006 Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
    Best Supporting Actress
  13. 2009  Mo’Nique for Precious
    Best Supporting Actress

Looking at this list, one doesn’t necessarily see a particular type of theme that runs through each of the storylines that could lead one to the conclusion that there’s a particular stereotype being perpetuated about people of colour. The list also doesn’t denote that a black person has to play a certain type of role to win an Oscar.

By Lee and Carr’s reasoning, it’s probably just a matter of right-film-right-time and maybe black actors are only recognised when it’s time to tick the boxes again.

source: destinyconnect


Written by PH

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