Oscar: Black Actors–Only Two of the Best Actor Winners Were Black

OscarsSoWhite: Black Actors at the Oscar

I have written one of the first–perhaps the very first–“serious” book of the Oscar Awards.  It was first published in 1986, while I was a professor of film and sociology at Wellesley College, under the title, And the Winner Is: The History and Politics of the Oscar Awards.  Since then, we have updated the book half a dozen times, and its current version is All About Oscar, with Halle Berry in the cover

According to my statistical study and data analysis:

In the 91 year history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS):

Best Actor Winners

Of the 78 actors who have won the male lead award–the Best Actor–only two thespians (2.5 percent) have been black: Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington.

Note: There have been 78 winner in 87 years because several actors have won more than one Oscar.  Our unit of analysis is the actor-performer.

Sidney Poitier: Only Black Actor for Decades

Lilies_of_the_Field_2_poitierSidney Poitier had received two Best Actor Oscar nominations: In 1958 for The Defiant Ones, and in 1963 for Lilies of the Field.  He won at his second nomination, age 36.

Denzel Washington

Washington belongs to a small group of accomplished actors who have Oscars in the two acting categories, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor:

w2aed5wh4w3Supporting Actor, for Glory in 1988, age 34

Best Actor, Training Day, in 2001, age 47

Washington, who this year received the Cecil B. DeMille Career Achievement Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (of which yours truly is a voting member) has been nominated for five Academy Awards: 2 in the supporting league and 3 in the Best category.

His Best Actor nominations include Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic, Malcolm X, and Norman Jewison’s 1999’s The Hurricane.

He won his Best Actor Oscar at his fifth and thus far last nomination.