Halle Berry and Denzel Washington Win Oscars

Today in Black History

 

2002 – Halle Berry and Denzel Washington were the big winners at the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Berry won the Best Actress award for her performance in Monster’s Ball, where she played the wife of a death row inmate. Berry, in winning the award became the first Black actress to do so. Hattie McDaniel had become the first Black actress to win an Oscar in 1940 for her role in Gone With The Wind. However, that was in a supporting role.

In her acceptance speech, Berry acknowledged those who had come before her as well as her contemporaries. “Oh my God. Oh my God. I’m sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored. I’m so honored. And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which His blessing might flow.”

Washington, long believed to be Hollywood’s leading Black actor, had been nominated for the Best Actor award twice previously but won on this evening for his role as a corrupt cop in the movie Training Day.Previously, only one other Black actor had been awarded the Oscar, that being Sidney Poitier for his role in Lilies in the Field in 1964. Poitier also was awarded an honorary Oscar on the same evening as Washington and Berry.

Washington said in his acceptance speech, “I want to thank the Academy. You know, when I was in college first starting out as an actor, they asked each one of us what we wanted to do. I said I want to be the best actor in the world. All the students in the classroom looked at me like I was a nut. Life has taught me to just try and be the best that I can be, and I thank the Academy for saying to me that on this given night I was the best that I could be.