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The First-Ever Academy Awards Were Handed Out Today... How Have Blacks Fared Since Then?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 16, 2011 at 5:36AM

Today in history... May 16th, 1929... the first Academy Awards, the Oscars, were presented at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel; Wings won the award for Best Picture; Emil Jannings for Best Actor; and Janet Gaynor for Best Actress.
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Today in history... May 16th, 1929... the first Academy Awards, the Oscars, were presented at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel; Wings won the award for Best Picture; Emil Jannings for Best Actor; and Janet Gaynor for Best Actress.

Since that beginning, we've seen roughly 160 to 180 black actors nominated in every category (not just the majors); to put that in some perspective, in the ceremony's 83 year history, there have been a total of at least 8300 nominees, in all categories. I'm basing that on the fact that there currently are about 25 different categories, with at least 4 nominees in each category (yes I know that wasn't always the case, especially early on, but for much of the award's history, going back to the 30s, there have been about 20 to 26 categories).

So, of the 8300+ nominees in Oscar history, about 2% have been people of African descent.

And of the 160 to 180 folks who were nominated, about 26 actually won! or about 1 win every 3 years on average, right?

Looking ahead to next year's ceremony, which will award this year's performance, it looks like Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in The Help presents the best chance for an African American to win an award in any of the major or "minor" categories. At least, based on the information that's available to me right now.

Looking further ahead... who knows...

This article is related to: Today In History


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