The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are considered to be the most prestigious and important awards in the entertainment industry. The awards are the global film industry awards for creative and technical merit.
From the year 1923 through 2022, a total of 35 black actors/actresses have been nominated for the Academy Award.
While several black actors have won the Oscars for Best Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role category, however, only 6 have won the ultimate award of Best actor/actress category.
So, here are the few black thespians in the elite group of winners of Best Actor/Best Actress Category of the Academy Award.
Sidney Poitier – Lilies of the Field (1963)
Sidney Poitier was a Bahamian-American actor, film director, and diplomat.
His breakthrough film role was as a high school student in the film “Blackboard Jungle” (1955).
In 1958, he was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal in the film “The Defiant Ones”. As a result, he became the first Black actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Sidney Poitier won the Oscar For Best Actor in a Motion Picture for his portrayal in “Lilies of the Field” (1963). He became the first black actor to win an Academy Award in that category as a result of this. He remains the Youngest Black actor to win the Best Actor category at age 37.
During his career, Poitier also won numerous awards, including two Golden Globe Awards, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award, and a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
Poitier was one of the last major actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age. He passed away on January 6, 2022. He was aged 94.
Denzel Washington – Training Day (2002)
Denzel Washington, 67, rose to prominence after starring in the medical drama St. Elsewhere (1982–1988).
A Soldier’s Story (1984) and Cry Freedom (1987) were among his early film roles.
The actor, director, and producer has won multiple awards over the course of his four-decade career, including two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, and three Golden Globe Awards.
He won his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1990 for his work as Private Silas Trip in the film “Glory” (1989).
For his role as crooked detective Alonzo Harris in the crime thriller “Training Day” (2001), Washington won the Oscar For Best Actor in 2002. This made him the first and only African-American actor to win Academy Awards in both acting categories (lead and supporting).
Washington is one of just five male performers to have been nominated for an Academy Award cross five decades.
Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball (2002)
Halle Berry began her career as a model and entered several beauty contests.
Her breakthrough film role was in the romantic comedy “Boomerang” (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy.
She also had roles in “The Flintstones” (1994) and “Bulworth” (1998) as well as the television film “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (1999), for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Berry established herself as one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood during the 2000s.
In 2002, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the romantic drama “Monster’s Ball” (2001).
She, thus, became the only African-American woman to have won the award.
She has also featured in films such as the “X-Men” film series (2000–2014), “Swordfish” (2001), James Bond girl Jinx in “Die Another Day” (2002), and “Catwoman” (2004).
Jamie Foxx – Ray (2005)
Jamie Foxx, the actor, comedian, and singer, came to public attention in 1991, as a cast of the TV comedy show “In Living Color” until the show’s end in 1994.
Foxx was given his own television sitcom, “The Jamie Foxx Show”, which aired from 1996 until 2001, as a result of his success.
Following that, he achieved greater fame due to his role as Ray Charles in the 2004 biographical film “Ray”. For his performance in the film, he won the Oscar For Best Actor in 2005.
That same year, he won the British Academy Film Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics’ Choice Movie Award, and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
As a result, he became only the second actor to win all five major lead actor awards for the same role.
That same year, Foxx was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the crime film “Collateral”.
The 54-year old Foxx is also a Grammy Award-winning musician.
Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland (2007)
Forest Whitaker, 60, made his professional acting debut in the film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982).
He portrayed the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 historical drama film “The Last King of Scotland”.
Whitaker gained 50 pounds, learned to play the accordion, and engaged himself in studies to play the Ugandan dictator. He also studied Swahili and mastered Amin’s East African accent by reading books about him, watching news and documentary video about him, and spending time in Uganda visiting with Amin’s friends, relatives, generals, and victims.
He won the Oscar For Best Actor for his performance in the film.
The actor, producer, director, and activist is also the recipient of various accolades, including a Golden Globe Award, a British Academy Film Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Whitaker is known for his humanitarian activities and advocacy in addition to his film career.
Will Smith – King Richard (2022)
Will Smith, also known by his stage name the Fresh Prince, rose to fame as the rapper of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, a hip-hop duo.
He later went on to achieve wider fame in television and film.
On the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990–1996), Smith played a fictionalized version of himself. He went on to star in films such as “Bad Boys” (1995), “Bad Boys II” (2003), and “Bad Boys for Life” (2020), among others.
Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali in the movie “Ali” (2001). In addition, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama or the same film.
In the 2021 film “King Richard”, Smith played Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams. He won the Oscar For Best Actor for his performance.
This win made him the second Black actor, and ninth overall, to be nominated for both acting and producing (Best Picture) in the same year.
For the performance, he also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role
Smith has won an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and four Grammy Awards, among others. He has also been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Tony Award for his work as a producer.
Will Smith’s films have generated more than $9.3 billion worldwide as of 2021, making him one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors.