Oscar 2008: Black Actors: Progress–Myth or Reality

This year, of the 20 performers nominated for an acting achievement in the four category, two (10 percent) are black, both in the Supporting Actress league: Viola Davis in “Doubt” and Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”


It’s probably a coincidence that both women play mothers of troubled kids: Davis to a young, sensitive altar boy, who may or may not have been molested by his priest (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Henson to white young-old man, played by Brad Pitt (you have to see the film to understand this qualifier).


Several years back, there were also two, both in the lead (Best Actor) category: Will Smith for “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and Forest Whitaker, who won, for “Last King of Scotland.” 


Black Actors at the Oscars


In the Academy’s 80-year-history, only 11 black performers have won the Oscar, five in the lead and six in the supporting category.  Denzel Washington is still the only black actor to have won two Oscars, Best and Supporting Actor. 


These Performers Are:


Hattie McDaniel, Gone With the Wind (1939)

Sidney Poitier, Lilies of the Field (1963)

Lou Gossett Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

Denzel Washington, Glory (1988)

Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost (1990)

Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire (1996)

Denzel Washington, Training Day (2001)

Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball (2001)

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby (2004)  

Jamie Foxx, Ray (2004)

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls (2006)

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland (2006)