24 Black History Oscar Facts Which Also Highlight Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity

black history oscar facts

As we gear up for the 96th Academy Awards, it’s worth reflecting on the history of Black artists in the film industry and their relationship with this prestigious awards ceremony.

READ: 7 Takeaways From Gina Prince-Bythewood’s MUST-READ THR Feature About The Oscars Lack of Recognition of Black Talent

Despite making significant strides over the years, the Oscars have long been criticized for their lack of diversity among winners and nominees, particularly when it comes to recognizing the contributions of Black creatives. As filmmaker Gina Prince Bythewood pointed out, “the Academy and the guilds should not be thought of as white institutions. They’re supposed to be made up of our peers. They’re not. They don’t represent the whole filmmaking community. But what awards give you is currency…”

READ: From Sidney Poitier to Angela Bassett: 22+ Black History Golden Globes Facts

Despite these challenges, Black filmmakers have continued to produce outstanding work, and their accomplishments cannot be denied. Ahead of the Oscars this Sunday, we’ve compiled a list of Black History Oscar facts that celebrate the achievements of Black artists, both past and present. It also acknowledges the ongoing need for greater representation and inclusivity in the film industry. Join us as we explore the power and significance of awards in the face of systemic inequality.

Keep scrolling to see those who have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations.


Hattie McDaniel was the first Black actor to ever win an Academy Award for her role in “Gone with the Wind” in 1939. However, she was forced to sit in the back of the theater and not allowed to attend the film’s premiere due to segregation laws.


It would take nearly 50 years for another actor to win in the Best Supporting category and that was Louis Gossett Jr. in the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman”. To this day only 14 Black actors have one in the categories of Best actor/actress category.

James Baskett was the First Black man to receive an Oscar in the Special Awards category in 1947. He received Academy Special Award, for his characterization of Uncle Remus in Song of the South.


John Singleton became the first black person nominated for Best Director, for “Boyz n the Hood” in 1991. No black filmmaker in the 95 year history has ever won in the Best Director category. Six male directors have been nominated, no Black woman has ever been nominated in the cateogry.


Only one Black actress has one in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category and that was Halle Berry in 2002 for ‘Monster’s Ball’. It took her nearly 70 years to win and in total only 14 Black women have ever been nominated in that category.

Sidney Poitier black history oscar facts
(Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)

Sidney Poitier was the first Black actor be nominated in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category for The Dafiant Ones (1958). And win in that category in 1963 for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”

denzel_oscars black history oscar facts

Denzel Washington became the first Black actor to win two Oscars in acting categories, first as Best Actor in Supporting Role for “Glory” in 1989 and then Best Actor in Leading Role for “Training Day” in 2001. He is also the most nominated black actor in Oscar history, with nine nominations and two wins.

In 2017, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award for his role in “Moonlight,” also making him the first Black Muslim to win an Oscar.

In 2018, Jordan Peele became the first Black writer to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his film “Get Out.”

 black history oscar facts

Suzanne de Passe is the first Black person to ever receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay, for Lady Sings the Blues she’s also the only woman to ever be nominated.

cheryl boone isaac black history oscar facts

Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first Black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (but not herself an Oscar winner or nominee)

viola davis black history oscar facts
(Photo by Dan MacMedan/Getty Images)

Viola Davis has been nominated for four Academy Awards, making her the most-nominated Black actress in history. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2017 for her role in “Fences.”

Remi Adefarasin

Remi Adefarasin became the first black person nominated for Best Cinematography, for “Elizabeth” in 1998.

dandridge black history oscar facts

Although they didn’t win, Dorothy Dandridge was the first black actress to be nominated in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category and Rupert Crosse was the first black actor to be nominated in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.

Ruth E. Carter became the first black person to win the Best Costume Design Oscar, for her work on “Black Panther” in 2018. And in 2023, Ruth E Carter became the first Black woman to win two Oscars

In 2017, Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture.

Jordan Peele became the first black person to win Best Original Screenplay, for “Get Out” in 2018. and Geoffrey Fletcher was the first black person to win Best Adapted Screenplay, for “Precious” in 2009.

In 2018, Dee Rees became the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, for “Mudbound”.

In 2009, Roger Ross Williams became the first black director to win an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject for his short, Music by Prudence.

In 2012, TJ Martin was the first to win in the Best Documentary Feature for his documentary Undefeated.

Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar in 2019, for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman”.

In 2020, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black artist to be nominated in the category and also to win in the Makeup and Hairstyling categories for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.’

Willie D. Burton was the first Black person to win for Best Sound for the 1988 film Bird. To this day he and Russell Williams II are the only to Black people to have ever been nominated or win in that category.

black history oscar facts

As of the 94th Academy Awards, only 20 Black actors have won an Oscar in the competitive acting categories

As of the 94th Academy Awards, 13 Black people have received an Oscar in the Special Awards category which includes the Honorary Award and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

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