35 Black Actors Who Won The Oscars
2017 was the most diverse year for the Oscars: in that year alone, five black artists were included in the winners' list. But things haven't always been like this. Today we honor all the talented black artists who have taken home the much-desired golden statuette, sometimes more than once.
1. Hattie McDaniel (1940)
Hattie McDaniel made history back in 1940 by becoming the first black actress to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress following her performance as Mammy in the epic movie "Gone with the Wind." As a daughter of two former slaves, the award had an even more special significance for her.
2. Octavia Spencer (2012)
Actress Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2012 for her role as Minny Jackson in "The Help." Not only did she beat her co-star Jessica Chastain but also Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids"), Janet McTeer ("Albert Nobbs"), Berenice Bejo ("The Artist"). She went on to thank Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider from Dreamworks, for "changing my life."
3. Morgan Freeman (2004)
After four nominations, Morgan Freeman finally won his much-deserved award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris in Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby." During his acceptance speech, he thanked all those involved and referred to the movie as "a labor of love."
4. Sidney Poitier (1963)
Just like Hattie McDaniel, actor Sidney Poitier also made history by being the first black actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Homer Smith in the 1963 movie "Lilies of the Field." He beat Albert Finney ("Tom Jones"), Richard Harris ("This Sporting Life"), Rex Harrison ("Cleopatra"), and Paul Newman ("Hud").
5. Louis Gossett Jr. (1982)
Following McDaniel and Poitier, Louis Gossett Jr. also made his way into movie history by being the first black actor to with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Gunnery Sgt Emil Foley in the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman." He dedicated his award to all his other competitors, Charles Durning, James Mason, John Lithgow, and Robert Preston.
6. Denzel Washington (1990 & 2002)
Denzel Washington is the only black actor to have won more than one Oscar. His first Oscar came in 1990 for his supporting role as Pct. Trip in the movie "Glory" and his second in 2002 for his lead role in "Training Day." In 1990, while accepting his award, Washington jokingly said that his son now had a real model to build a clay one out of.
7. Whoopi Goldberg (1991)
After two nominations, actress Whoopi Goldberg finally took home the Oscar for her performance as Oda Mae Brown in the movie "Ghost," starring opposite Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. While accepting the award, Goldberg talked about how she was finally fulfilling a childhood dream. "Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted this," she said.
8. Cuba Gooding Jr. (1996)
In 1996, Cuba Gooding Jr's enthusiastic acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar almost overshadowed his performance as the flamboyant football player Rod Tidwell in "Jerry McGuire." After thanking his wife and all the people involved in the movie, he jumped up and down several times while saying, "I love you!"
9. Halle Berry (2002)
2002 was definitely one of the most racially diverse years at the Oscars. Not only did Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington came out winners (Poitier with an honorary Oscar), but also actress Halle Berry managed to go home with a golden statuette in her hands. Berry won the award for Best Actress for her role as Leticia Musgrove in "Monster's Ball."
10. Jamie Foxx (2005)
In 2005 Jamie Foxx took the stage to accept his Oscar for Best Actor for his leading role in the movie "Ray." He began by singing into the microphone and inviting the audience to join him and then proceeded to thank his daughter, "I wanna thank my daughter who told me before I got up here, if you don't win dad, you're still good."
11. Forest Whitaker (2007)
A very overwhelmed Forest Whitaker took the stage at the Oscars in 2007 to accept his award for Best Actor for his performance in "The Last King of Scotland." Whitaker proceeded to read from his notecards: "When I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone to that thing inside each of us, that light that I believe exists in all of us because acting for me is believing in that connection."
12. Jennifer Hudson (2006)
"American Idol" might have introduced her to showbiz, but the movies catapulted her to stardom. In 2006, at only 25, Jennifer Hudson took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White in "Dreamgirls." In her speech, Hudson thanked her grandmother, saying she had been her inspiration.
13. Mo'Nique (2009)
Mo'Nique won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an abusive mother in the 2009 drama "Precious". In her acceptance speech, the actress paid tribute to Hattie McDaniel thanking her "for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to." She also thanked her husband for teaching her to "forego doing what's popular to do what's right."
14. Lupita Nyong'o (2013)
"12 Years a Slave" won 3 Oscars in 2013, one of them was due to actress Lupita Nyong's performance as Patsey. Lupita beat Jennifer Lawrence ("American Hustle"), Julia Roberts, June Squibb and Sally Hawkins for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. While accepting, she thanked her character and Solomon Northup, the author of "12 Years a Slave."
15. Viola Davis (2017)
In 2017 Viola Davis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Fences." She won the award after three nominations and by beating out fellow nominees Naomie Harris, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams, and Octavia Spencer. "I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life," Viola said in her speech.
16. Mahershala Ali (2016 & 2018)
Mahershala Ali became the second black actor to win two Oscars, after Denzel Washington. In 2017 he took home the award for Best Supporting Actor in "Moonlight", and in 2019, only two years later, he took the stage to accept the Oscar for his supporting role in "The Green Book."
17. Regina King (2018)
Regina King won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "If Beale Street Could Talk" in 2018. After standing up to get her award, she ended up stepping on her dress, which led Captain America to help her get on stage. In her acceptance speech, King thanked the author James Baldwin and the movie director Barry Jenkins.
18. Kobe Bryant (2018)
The late Kobe Bryant also made Oscar history by becoming the first professional athlete to win an Academy Award. Bryant was also the first black person to take home the Oscar for Best Animated Short for his film "Dear Basketball" in 2018, which he wrote and narrated.
19. Isaac Hayes (1972)
Talking about making history, Isaac Hayes also saw his name in Oscar history by becoming the first black winner for Best Original Song, an award he took home in 1972 for his song "Shaft." In fact, he was the first black winner of an Oscar that wasn't related to acting.
20. Irene Cara (1983)
Nine years after Isaac Hayes' Oscar win, Irene Cara became the first black woman to win an Oscar in a category not related to acting. The singer also took home the award for Best Original Song for "What a Feeling" from the movie "Flashdance." The award was shared with co-lyricist Keith Forsey and composer Giorgio Moroder.
21. Stevie Wonder (1985)
In 1985, legendary Stevie Wonder took the stage to accept his Best Original Song Oscar for "I Just Called To Say I Love You" from the movie "Lady in Red." In his speech, he accepted the award "in the name of Nelson Mandela" and thanked several people, among whom, Dionne Warwick, Gene Wilder, and his family.
22. Prince (1985)
Here's another record-breaking artist making Oscar history by becoming the first black winner of the Best Original Song Score for the cult classic "Purple Rain" in 1985. The category that has since been eliminated from the Academy Awards. Prince beat Jeff Moss ("The Muppets Take Manhattan",) and Kris Kristofferson ("Songwriter") for the award.
23. Lionel Richie (1986)
The year after Stevie Wonder's win, it was time for Lionel Richie to take home the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Say You, Say Me" from the movie "White Nights." Richie recognized the award as a dream come true, "In the truest sense of the word, I will say to you that this represents a dream come true." He went on to thank everyone who supported him over the years.
24. Herbie Hancock (1987)
In 1987 jazz and R&B musician Herbie Hancock took the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Original Score for the musical drama "Round Midnight." He was the first black winner for this category, beating James Horner ("Aliens"), Ennio Morricone ("The Mission"), Leonard Rosenman ("Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home") and Jerry Goldsmith ("Hoosiers").
25. Willie D. Burton (1989 & 2007)
Two years later it was Willie D. Burton's turn to make Oscar history by becoming the first black person to win the award for Best Sound for the movie "Bird". Eighteen years and four nominations later, he would step on stage again to accept his second Oscar, this time for his work on "Dreamgirls", which he shared with Michael Minkler and Bob Beemer.
26. Russell Williams II (1990 & 1991)
Just like William D. Burton, Russell Williams II also took home two Oscars for Best Sound. He got the first one in 1990 as part of the team that worked on the movies "Glory". Just one year later, in 1991, he was taking the stage once again to accept the award for his work in "Dances With Wolves."
27. Three 6 Mafia (2005)
Juicy J, Frayser Boy, and Dj Paul, from Three 6 Mafia, couldn't believe their ears when they heard their names during the announcement for Best Original Song Oscar in 2005. The three rappers won the award for their song "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" from the movie "Hustle & Flow."
28. Geoffrey Fletcher (2010)
In 2010 the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay went to Geoffrey Fletcher, who became the first black person ever to win the category. Fletcher won the award for his work "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," beating "District 9", "An Education", "In The Loop," and "Up In The Air".
29. Roger Ross Williams (2010)
That same year, Roger Ross Williams also became the first black director to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for his work in "Music by Prudence," an award he shared with Elinor Burkett. It beat "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province", "Rabbit a la Berlin", "The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner," and "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant".
30. T. J. Martin (2012)
Director T.J. Martin took the stage with Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas to accept the award for Best Documentary Feature for his film "Undefeated" about the Memphis' Manassas Tiger football team. He became the first black person to win this category.
31. John Ridley (2014)
Four years after Geoffrey Fletcher's win, John Ridley became the second black person to win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Ridley won the award for his adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir "12 Years a Slave." The movie ended up winning 3 Oscars that night.
32. Steve McQueen (2013)
In 2013, Steve McQueen became the first black producer to win an Oscar for Best Motion Picture for the movie "12 Years a Slave." It was against top contenders "American Hustle", "Dallas Buyers Club", "Captain Phillips", "Her", "Gravity", "Nebraska", "Philomena," and "The Wolf of Wall Street".
33. Common & John Legend (2015)
In 2015 musicians Common and John Legend took the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Original Song for their song "Glory" from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. biopic's "Selma." On their acceptance speech, Common recalled the moment they sang the song on the same bridge Martin Luther Ling had marched 50 years prior.
34. Tarell Alvin McCraney & Barry Jenkins (2017)
Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins joined Geoffrey Fletcher and John Ridley on the list of all the black winners of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar when they stepped on stage in 2017 to accept their award. "This goes out to all of those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming [people] who don't see themselves.", McCraney said in his speech. "We're trying to show them you and us. This is for you."
35. Jordan Peele (2018)
In 2018 Jordan Peele saw his movie "Get Out" nominated in three different categories. He ended up becoming the first black person to take home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The movie was also nominated for Best Movie and Best Director.
It's quite inspiring to see these talented black artists being rewarded for their work and dedication by such renowned awards. Who are your favorite ones from those mentioned on this list? Let us know all about it in the comments section, and don't forget to share the article!