With wins by Regina King, Ruth Carter, Hannah Beachler, Mahershala Ali, Peter Ramsey, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott, this year’s Academy Awards is a historic one for black talent. No other year in the history of the Oscars has netted as many as six black winners.
The closest came in 2017, when four black contenders went on to win trophies for films released in the year 2016: Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor for “Moonlight”; Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress for “Fences”; Ezra Edelman, Best Documentary Feature for “O.J.: Made in America”; and co-winners Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney who won for Best Adapted Screenplay, for “Moonlight.”
This year, King won the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Carter, who is just one of two black people to be nominated in the Costume Design category since the Academy created it for the 1949 awards, won for her work on Best Picture contender “Black Panther,” making her the first-ever black person to win the Oscar for Costume Design, which is remarkable.
Also making history is Beachler who becomes the first-ever black designer to receive not only a Best Production Design nomination, but also a win, for her work in “Black Panther.”
Additionally, Peter Ramsey of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” fame, is the first black director to be nominated in, and win the Animated Feature category. Ramsey co-directed the box office blockbuster with Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman.
Also, Mahershala Ali’s win in the Best Supporting category for his performance in “Green Book” makes him just the second black actor, in the entire history of the Oscars, to win two trophies for acting. Only one other black actor/actress has at least two Oscar wins: Denzel Washington who first won the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in “Glory” (1989), and would later win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “Training Day” (2001).
And finally, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott won for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” The pair adapted Ron Stallworth’s fantastical story of a black man infiltrating the KKK, with Charlie Wachtel David Rabinowitz.
Despite historic wins evading other black nominees, including Terence Blanchard (nominated for Best Original Score with “BlacKkKlansman”), the 2019 Academy Awards was certainly a historic one for black creatives.
See IndieWire’s coverage of the 91st Academy Awards.