The Oscars were first presented in 1929. At the time, The Great Depression was just really starting, with Americans turning to cinema to escape from their dreadful everyday circumstances. So much has occurred since then in terms of representation, equality, advances regarding sexism, and beyond. However, many will say that the award ceremony has not always reflected such.
But, just as in any cultural movement, there have been several moments in the history of the Oscars that represent everything the American Dream of unification and equal work is personified. Here are six moments since the show's inception that proves such.
Sidney Poitier becomes first Black man to win 'Best Actor'
Up until 1964, no Black actor had ever won the award for Best Actor. He won the award for his role as a construction worker in Lilies of the Field. He eventually became notorious for refusing to play stereotypical roles in the Black community, such as pimps and slaves.prevnext
Halle Berry becomes the first to win Best Actress
In 2002, the Losing Isaiah star became the first Black woman to win the award for Best Actress thanks to her performance in Monster's Ball alongside Billy Bob Thornton. Since then, no other Black woman has won in that category. Berry is not happy about being the first, and at this point, the last.
"You know, I've been asked this question so many times as if I should have the answer. But I don't," she said in ABC's Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising special. "But I will say this: I do feel completely heartbroken that there's no other woman standing next to me in 20 years."prevnext
Mo'Nique wins for 'Best Supporting Actress'
Mo'Nique starred as the horrible mother/antagonist in a film that allegedly no one thought would prevail. She later revealed that she earned just $50,000 for her role in the Lee Danield directed production. Her role ended up being critically acclaimed, earning her the coveted gold trophy.
Amid the praise for Precious, Mo'Nique has been open about going through issues with studio heads and executives of the film in regards to her opting out of doing press internationally. Still, she won, and she hinted to her struggles in her acceptance speech.
"First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics," she said, per ESSENCE Magazine before thanking those who came before her, as well as those who helped to make the movie possible on a grand scale. "I want to thank Ms. Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to," she said in regards to McDaniel who won the award in 1939 for Gone With the Wind.
She continued: Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey because you touched it, the whole world saw it." She went on to thank "My entire BET family, my Precious family, thank you so much. To my amazing husband, Sidney, thank you for showing me that sometimes you have to forego doing what's popular in order to do what's right and baby, you were so right. God bless us all!"prevnext
Rap song wins 'Best Original Song'
In 2006, a Memphis-spawned hip-hop group won Best Original Song for the lead track from the Terrence Howard-starring film Hustle & Flow. The film chronicled the journey of a pimp-turned-rapper. His most famous single, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," was sung by actress Taraji P. Henson's character in the film. The rap group couldn't believe the win years later.
Juicy J, one member of the group told Variety in a 2021 interview that odds were stacked against them. "We was up against Dolly Parton, how is Three 6 Mafia gonna beat Dolly Parton? I don't know if you can see it on [the video] but I'm nervous as f—, movin' my thumbs and biting my lips. Then they called our names."prevnext
Chloé Zhao becomes the first woman of color to win 'Best Director'
Zhao won the Oscar for directing Nomadland, a project that shows lives of older Americans who live like nomads. Real-life nomads are included in the film alongside some actors. She was only the second woman to win in the category in history. Zhao was also the first woman to get four Oscar nominations in a single year.prevnext
Youn Yuh-jung wins best supporting actress Academy Award
Yuh-jung won the best supporting actress award in 2021, making her just the second Asian actress to win in the category. Her win came more than 60 years after Japanese-born Miyoshi Umeki earned the trophy for 1957's Sayonara.prev