Black Actors Win and Lose at the Oscars

Black Actors Win and Lose at the Oscars

April 26, 2021 | Entertainment, G-BLOG

Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya
Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello / AP

Six Black actors were nominated out of the 20 acting nominees at the 93rd Academy Awards. That was a record. 

But in the ceremony on April 25, only Daniel Kaluuya won an Oscar.  

He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. He beat two Black men, his co-star Lakeith Stanfield, and Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami.

During his acceptance speech, Kaluuya praised Hampton. 

“What a man – how blessed we are that we live in a lifetime that he existed.” He said the Black Panthers “showed us the power of union and power of unity.” 

“He was on this Earth for 21 years … and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, give free medical care against all the odds.”

Hampton was gunned down by the FBI and Chicago police in a raid on his apartment in December 1969. 

“The Black Panther Party, they showed me how to love myself,” an emotional Kaluuya said. 

The British also actor told the audience that “There’s so much work to do, guys, and that’s on everyone in this room,” to continue Hampton’s legacy of radical change and racial equality 

In the Best Picture category, Judas and the Black Messiah, lost to Nomadland, a film about a group of retirees struggling to make ends meet.

The late Chadwick Boseman was a favourite to win the Best Actor statuette for his final role as the trumpeter Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He lost to veteran actor Anthony Hopkins in The Father, a drama about dementia. 

In the Best Actress category, two Black women, Viola Davis and Andra Day lost to Frances McDermond in Nomadland

Veteran Davis starred in the title role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Day played iconic singer Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

2021 was the first time in nearly 50 years that two Black women were up for Best actress in the same year. 

Only one Black actress has won the Best Actress in the over 90s years of Oscar history — Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball in 2001.

Only four Black men have won the Best Actor Oscars:

Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field in 1963, Denzel Washington in Training Day in 2001, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray in 2004, and Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland in 2006. 

In the non-acting categories, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won two awards. Ann Roth won for Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, who are the first Black winners of that award. 

The Original Song Oscar went to H.E.R. for “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah. H.E.R. beat Leslie Odom Jr., who co-wrote “Speak Now” for One Night in Miami.

Soul, the Disney animated film starring the voice of Jamie Foxx, won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Score, but it lost the Best Sound award to Sound of Metal

Mank, the movie about Hollywood screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, beat out Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Production Design, and Judas and the Black Messiah for Best Cinematography. 

One Night in Miami lost the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to The Father, while Judas and the Black Messiah lost the Best Original Screenplay to Promising Young Woman.

Travon Free won the Best Short Live Action Film award for Two Distant Strangers, a film about police brutality towards Black people. 

Tyler Perry won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his personal contributions to various social causes and assistance to those in need. 

Viola Davis presented the award, which is given to an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

In his acceptance speech, Perry dedicated the award, “to anyone who wants to stand in the middle … because that’s where healing happens, that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens. It happens in the middle. So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment, and help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one’s for you, too.”


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