In honor of tonight’s Academy Awards, I thought I would give a little shout out to the reel sistas who have been recognized for their work as Best Leading Actress.
Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American actress to be nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role,” for her work in 1954’s “Carmen Jones.”
Dorothy was also considered for the role of “Billie Holliday” in a movie; however, the project didn’t materialize in her lifetime. When the movie did come to pass, the role was portrayed by Diana Ross.
In 1972 Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson were both nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” Oscars. This was only the second time in the history of the Academy Awards that African-American actresses were nominated in the “Best Actress” Oscar category. Diana was nominated for her first film role playing Billie Holliday in “Lady Sings the Blues.”
Cicely Tyson was nominated for her work in the film “Sounder.”
The next reel sista to grab a “Best Actress in a Leading Role” was Diahann Carroll. She garnered a nomination for her work in the 1974 film “Claudine”
It would be 10 years before another African American actress was nominated for the top honor. In 1985 Whoopi Goldberg was nominated for her work in the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic novel The Color Purple.
Whoopi would later go on to win a “Best Supporting Actess” Oscar for her role in “Ghost”
For her dead on performace as Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Angela Basset was nominated for a “Best Actress in a Leading Role.”
Years later Angela turned down the role that led the 7th African-American Actress nominated for the “Best Actress in a Leading Role” Oscar. In 2002, Halle Berry made history by becoming the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role.” Halle won for the role of Letecia Musgrove in the film “Monster’s Ball.”
Although many have criticized the film for it’s portrayal of the black woman, Halle’s win was historic and she will forever be a part of Oscar history.
Lastly in 2010, Gabourey Sidebe was nominated for her portaryal as the title character in the film Precious.
Best Actress nominations for African American women are few and far between. as you probably know already, there was a complete black out this year for actors/directors/writers of color.
Only time will tell what the future holds for African American women and Oscar.