(L-R, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Helen Mirren and Alan Arkin/AP)

From Hattie and Sidney to Jennifer and Forest: Is Oscar Finally Colorblind?


            The annual Academy Awards honors Hollywood’s elite.  The Oscars are a celebration of excellence in film that awards the best thespians and filmmakers by crossing cultural boundaries and genres to exalt the premier moviemakers around the world.

            Despite the Academy’s intentions of honoring the best that Hollywood has to offer, it historically has excluded the premier entertainers in Black Hollywood. 

            In the 78-year history of the Oscars, only 11 African Americans have claimed the gold statute in the acting categories.  Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker recently won Oscars for their in roles in Dreamgirls and The Last King of Scotland, respectively. 

            Whitaker won for best actor, while Hudson took home the award in the best supporting actress category.

            “Receiving this honor tonight tells me that it’s possible for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen,” said Whitaker.

            However, receiving an Academy Award had historically been almost impossible for African Americans in the early years of the award.

            Chris Rock once called the Academy Awards the “million White man march” for its lack of diversity.

            The other nine Black actors to win this coveted award include Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind), Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field), Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), Denzel Washington (Glory, Training Day), Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)

            The recent recognition of so many Black performers makes one wonder, are the Academy Awards finally colorblind?

            For generations African Americans have been one of the most stereotyped groups in Hollywood.  From demeaning roles to a lack of opportunities behind the camera, Blacks have fought tirelessly to become equals in the movie business.

            When African Americans were able to break through with commanding performances the Hollywood community usually ignored their greatness.

            Now it seems as if awards such as the Oscars are beginning to realize the beauty of Black cinema, nominating multiple African American actors over the last few years.

            Nevertheless, many barriers remain unbroken for Black Hollywood.  There has yet to be an African American director honored with an award, nor a film with a predominately Black cast.

            However, the strength of the Black community has always been its perseverance and strength, and that strength will soon lead to more doors opening for African Americans in Hollywood.

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