By Guest Contributors Zach Stafford and Nico Lang
Over the years, people of color have had the hardest time breaking into the ‘biz’ or just simply being recognized for the work that they have done on the silver screen.
It was in 1939 that the first African American person–Hattie McDaniel–won an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind. It took 30 years for another African American person to win again: Sidney Poitier won Best Actor in a leading role for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, a film that tackles racial divides and interracial dating at the onslaught of integration. But how much have we integrated since then?
In their 2011 New York Times article, “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” staff film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott wrote, “[Race] in American cinema has rarely been a matter of simple step-by-step progress. It has more often proceeded in fits and starts, with backlashes coming on the heels of breakthroughs, and periods of intense argument followed by uncomfortable silence.” Their article came out in response to the 2010 Academy Awards where zero African Americans were nominated, which struck many as peculiar within this Obama Era where ideals around post-racism circulated from sea to shining sea.
The lack of people of color at the Academy Awards was a stark reminder that Hollywood was still very much divided. Let’s play a game: Can you name a prominent black actor under 30? Someone that, if you walked up to a random person on the street, they would know who you are talking about? Didn’t think so.