2019 Oscars set record for most individual black winners

Spike Lee holds his Oscar for adapted screenplay for "BlacKkKlansman."
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Sunday night’s Oscars marked a record-breaking year for recognizing the achievement of black artists.

Shattering a record set in 2017, the 91st Academy Awards bestowed trophies upon seven black winners in six categories.

Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler were among the early winners, taking home the awards for costume design and production design, respectively, for their work in “Black Panther.” They both made history as the first black winners recognized in their categories as well as the first two people to take home awards for their work on a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Carter and Beachler were also the second and third black women ever to win a non-acting Oscar. The only previous winner was Afro-Latina musician Irene Cara, one of the writers of 1984 original song-winner “Flashdance … What a Feeling.”

Spike Lee nabbed his first competitive Academy Award, in the adapted screenplay category, for co-writing “BlacKkKlansman” along with Kevin Willmott, who’s also black, and Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz.

Regina King and Mahershala Ali took the supporting actress and actor categories, respectively. King was recognized for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” while Ali’s win was for his role in “Green Book.”

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Additionally, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” co-director Peter Ramsey nabbed an Oscar in the animated feature category. Ramsey was the first black director to win the animated-feature award.


Backstage, Ramsey said he felt “a huge responsibility” in bringing the Afro-Latino Miles Morales to life in the film.

“Everybody has to know that our whole team deeply felt the importance of that idea and that mission,” said Ramsey. “Miles had a lot of backup. He had a lot of people who really loved him as a character, believed in his story and knew how important it was going to be to black kids, Latino kids, kids who just want to be their best selves no matter who they are.”

Lee discussed the historic night backstage, thanking April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite, and former academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs: “They opened the academy to make it look more like America. That’s why three black women, if I counted correctly, won,” he said.

Among other triumphs for diversity, Rami Malek became the first Egyptian American to win the Oscar for lead actor. That meant three of the four acting prizes were awarded to non-white actors. Plus, the 2019 Oscars saw a record 15 women awarded for their achievements, beating the previous record of 12 winners in both 2014 and 2016.

Times staff writer Ashley Lee contributed to this report.

2019 OSCARS: See the full list of winners and nominees »


Twitter: @tracycbrown