For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has failed to include a single African American actor among its slate of 20 acting nominees. This has caused an uproar on social media (#OscarsSoWhite) and very public declarations by Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee that they will be boycotting the festivities on February 28.

cheryl-boone-issacsWhile some have criticized Smith and Lee’s comments, the president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, issued a lengthy statement on Monday about how “heartbroken and frustrated” she was by the lack of inclusion among the nominees. “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond,” Boone Isaacs said. “As many of you know,” she continued, “we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”

Looking at the Oscar nominations over the past 50 years, the last two-year period in which no African Americans were nominated in the acting categories was 1997 and 1998. Before that, the longest stretch was the period between 1975 and 1980. In total, since the beginning of the Academy Awards in 1927, African American actors have won 23 Oscars, with the largest number of awards coming in the Best Supporting Actress category, beginning with Hattie McDaniel’s historic win in 1939 for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (she was the first African American or black person of any nationality to win an Oscar).

In light of the growing controversy, I was interested to look at the facts and figures about African Americans nominated for Academy Awards.

Halle Berry poses with her Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for "Monster's Ball" (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

Halle Berry poses with her Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for “Monster’s Ball” (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

Best Actress

Won (1)

2001   Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

Nominated (9)

1954   Dorothy Dandridge, Carmen Jones

1972   Diana Ross, Lady Sings the Blues

1972  Cicely Tyson, Sounder

1974   Diahann Carroll, Claudine

1985   Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple

1993   Angela Bassett, What’s Love Got to Do With It

2009   Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

2011   Viola Davis, The Help

2012   Quevenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild


Best Actor

Won (4)

1963   Sidney Poitier, Lillies of the Field

2001   Denzel Washington, Training Day

2004   Jamie Foxx, Ray

2006   Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Nominated (16)

1958   Sidney Poitier, The Defiant Ones

1970   James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope

1972   Paul Winfield, Sounder

1986   Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight

1989   Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy

1992   Denzel Washington, Malcolm X

1993   Laurence Fishburne, What’s Love Got to Do With It

1994   Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption

1999   Denzel Washington, The Hurricane

2001   Will Smith, Ali

2004   Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

2005   Terence Howard, Hustle & Flow

2006   Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happiness

2009   Morgan Freeman, Invictus

2012   Denzel Washington, Flight

2013   Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (Ejiofor is British)


Best Supporting Actress

Won (6)

1939   Hattie McDaniel, Gone With the Wind

1990   Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost

2006   Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

2009   Mo’Nique, Precious

2011   Octavia Spencer, The Help

2013   Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (Nyong’o is Mexican-Kenyan)

[Note that on many such lists, Carol Channing is included as an African American nominee for Best Supporting Actress for her 1967 nomination for Thoroughly Modern Millie. It seems crazy to include her in this discussion even though her paternal grandmother was African American.]

Nominated (12)

1949   Ethel Waters, Pinky

1959   Juanita Moore, Imitation of Life

1967   Beah Richards, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

1983   Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek

1985   Margaret Avery, The Color Purple

1985  Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple

1996   Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets & Lies (Baptiste is British)

2002   Queen Latifah, Chicago

2004   Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda (Okonedo is British)

2007   Ruby Dee, American Gangster

2008   Viola Davis, Doubt

2008  Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Best Supporting Actor

Won (4)

1982   Louis Gossett, Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman

1989   Denzel Washington, Glory

1996   Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jerry Maguire

2004   Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Nominated (13)

1969   Rupert Crosse, The Reivers

1981   Howard Rollins, Ragtime

1984   Adolph Caesar, A Soldier’s Story

1987   Morgan Freeman, Street Smart

1987  Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom

1992   Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game

1994   Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction

1999   Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile

2003   Djimon Hounsou, In America (Hounsou was born in Benin and is now an American citizen)

2004   Jamie Foxx, Collateral

2006   Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond

2006  Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

2013   Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (Abdi was born in Somalia and is now an American citizen)


And a few other top categories:

Best Director

Won (0)

Nominated (3)

1991   John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood

2009   Lee Daniels, Precious

2013   Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave (McQueen is British)

Best Picture (Producer)

Won (1)

2013   Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Nominated (6)

1985   Quincy Jones, The Color Purple

2009   Lee Daniels, Precious

2009  Broderick Johnson, The Blind Side

2012   Reginald Hudlin, Django Unchained

2013   Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

2014   Oprah Winfrey, Selma

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Won (0)

Nominated (3)

1972   Suzanne de Passe, Lady Sings the Blues

1989   Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing

1991   John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Won (2)

2009   Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious

2013   John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Nominated (2)

1972   Lonne Elder, Sounder

1984   Charles Fuller, A Soldier’s Story

Best Cinematography

Won (0)

Nominated (1)

1998   Remi Adefarasin, Elizabeth

Best Editing

Won (0)

Nominated (1)

1969   Hugh A. Robertson, Midnight Cowboy

Best Costume Design

Won (0)

Nominated (4)

1992   Ruth E. Carter, Malcolm X

1997   Ruth E. Carter, Amistad

2004   Sharen Davis, Ray

2006   Sharen Davis, Dreamgirls

Best Original Score

Won (2)

1984   Prince, Purple Rain

1986   Herbie Hancock, Round Midnight

Nominated (8)

1961   Duke Ellington, Paris Blues

1967   Quincy Jones, In Cold Blood

1971   Isaac Hayes, Shaft

1978   Quincy Jones, The Wiz

1985   Quincy Jones, Andrae Crouch, Caiphus Semenya, The Color Purple

1987   Jonas Gwangwa, Cry Freedom

Best Original Song

Won (9)

1971   Isaac Hayes, “Theme from Shaft,” Shaft

1983   Irene Cara, “What a Feeling,” Flashdance

1984   Stevie Wonder, “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” The Woman in Red

1985   Lionel Richie, “Say You, Say Me,” White Nights

2005   Juicy J, Frayser Boy, DJ Paul, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” Hustle & Flow

2014   Common, John Legend, “Glory,” Selma

Nominated (23)

1967   Quincy Jones, Bob Russell, “The Eyes of Love,” Banning

1968   Quincy Jones, Bob Russell, “For Love of Ivy,” For Love of Ivy

1981   Lionel Richie, “Endless Love,” Endless Love

1984   Ray Parker, Jr., “Ghostbusters,” Ghostbusters

1985   Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, “Miss Celie’s Blues,” The Color Purple

1988   Lamont Dozier, “Two Hearts,” Buster

1993   Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, “Again,” Poetic Justice

1994   James Ingram, “The Day I Fall in Love,” Beethoven’s 2nd

1995   James Ingram, “Look What Love Has Done,” Junior

2006   Siedah Garrett, “Love You I Do,” Dreamgirls

2007   Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack, Tevin Thomas, “Raise It Up,” August Rush

2011   Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, “Real in Rio,” Rio

2013   Pharrell Williams, “Happy,” Despicable Me 2

2015   The Weeknd, Jason “Daheala” Quenneville, “Earned It,” 50 Shades of Grey

In the remaining categories, African Americans received a total of 6 regular Oscars and 7 honorary Oscars (including one this year for Spike Lee). Not sure how this will all shake out, but I’m looking forward to host Chris Rock’s comments about the situation on February 28th!