Hollywood can be seen as leaders in social change, and with that comes new firsts. This is just a few of the first people to win in their respective categories.
Hattie McDaniel – First Black Supporting Actress Academy Award Recipient
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. She won for her role in Gone With the Wind, as Mammy the maid who would scold her owner’s daughter.
Not only was she the first Best Supporting Actress who was black, she was the first black person to win an Oscar at all!
McDaniel’s speech included the following quote:
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.
Sidney Poitier – First Black Best Actor Academy Award Recipient
In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American man to win the Best Actor Oscar. He won for his role as Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field. He was also the first black man to be nominated for an Oscar, for his role in The Defiant Ones in 1958.
Halle Berry – First Black Best Actress Academy Award Recipient
Incredibly, it took 63 years from when McDaniel won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for a black actress to win the Best Actress Oscar. In 2002, Halle Berry won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball.
Kathryn Bigelow – First Female Best Director Recipient
Kathryn Bigelow, in 2008 became the first (and so far only) woman to have won the Best Director Oscar. She won for The Hurt Locker, a war thriller film, starred Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.