When the 95th annual Academy Awards ceremony takes place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, several Black people will present awards, but don’t expect too many Black winners. That’s because only eight Black people were nominated for Oscars this year. Statistically, most nominees cannot win in their categories, regardless of race. Therefore, the odds are that most of these eight nominees will not win.
Jimmy Kimmel will host the 2023 Oscar ceremony, which will air on ABC. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes for the Oscar nominees and winners, continues to have membership where white men are the majority. The Academy says that its current membership consists of more than 10,000 people. According to data information company Statista, in 2022, 81% of Oscar voters identified as white, and 67% of Oscars voters identified as men. The Academy does not publicly report what percentage of its membership identifies as Black.
The eight Black people nominated for Oscars this year include Brian Tyree Henry of the Apple Studios drama “Causeway” (Best Supporting Actor), while the rest of the Black nominees are from Marvel Studios’ superhero sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” The “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” Black nominees are Angela Bassett (Best Supporting Actress); Ruth E. Carter (Best Costume Design); Camille Friend (Best Makeup and Hairstyling); R. Christopher White (Best Visual Effects); and Rihanna, Tems, and “Black Panther: Wakanda” director Ryan Coogler (Best Original Song), for “Lift Me Up.”
In 2015, when activist April Reign tweeted #OscarsSoWhite, in response to all of the nominees in the actor/actress categories being white, the hashtag went viral and started a worldwide conversation about lack of racial diversity among the Oscar nominees. In 2016, all of the actress/actor Oscar nominees were still all white. The week after nominations were announced in January 2016, the Academy pledged to double the number of women and “diverse members” (people of color and people from outside the U.S.) in the Academy’s membership by 2020. Those changes were made. And in 2020, the Academy announced representation and inclusion standards, as additional requirements for movies to be eligible for Best Picture.
Despite these changes and some Black people winning in Oscar categories for the first time since these efforts, there were still no Black people nominated in 2023 in the major categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Representatives for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue, but the academy has shared the following figures:
- 7 out of 20 actor nominations feature at least one nominee from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group
- 18 out of 22 possible categories feature at least one nominee from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group
Reign tells Black News & Views: “In this country, issues regarding race, ethnicity, equity, and marginalized communities are on a pendulum: They swing back and forth.” She says of Black representation among Oscar nominees: “It’s rare to have two good years in a row.” Reign comments on Academy members who vote for the Oscars: “If the overall organization is still a majority of white men, then you’re really not going to see a difference.”
When people talk about the biggest Oscar snubs this year, many entertainment awards pundits and movie fans have repeatedly named two history-based dramas directed by and centered on Black women: Columbia Pictures’ action drama “The Woman King” (starring Viola Davis and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood) and Orion Pictures’ drama “Till” (starring Danielle Deadwyler and directed by Chinonye Chukwu). In “The Woman King,” which takes place in the 1820s, Davis (who is also a producer of the film) portrays General Nanisca, the leader of an all-female warrior army called the Agojie, in the African kingdom of Dahomey. In “Till,” which takes place in 1955, Deadwyler portrays civil rights activist Mamie Till-Mobley, whose 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, was murdered in Mississippi, in a racist hate crime that helped spark the civil rights movement. The Oscar snubs of “The Woman King” and “Till” were noticeable because both movies received nominations at other prominent award shows, including the Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, and the British Film Academy’s BAFTA Film Awards.
In an essay published by The Hollywood Reporter in February 2023, “The Woman King” director Prince-Bythewood commented on the movie being shut out of Oscar nominations: “It’s a reflection of where the Academy stands and the consistent chasm between Black excellence and recognition. And, sadly, this is not just an issue in Hollywood but in every industry.”
Within the ecosystem of the Academy Awards are networks of people who have an influence on who gets nominated. Movie distributors (who usually pay for the awards campaigns), publicists, filmmakers, cast members, and journalists/film critics all play roles in what often comes down to being a popularity contest of who gets nominated and who wins. Diversity (or lack of diversity) within these networks also makes a difference, as does the type of budget allocated for a movie’s awards campaign. However, a movie can have the most expensive awards campaign in the world and still experience the biggest roadblock: Voters who just don’t see the movie.
In her essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Prince-Bythewood candidly shared her personal experiences for “The Woman King” awards campaign: “As I moved through this awards season, I was struck by the Academy members who simply didn’t want to see the film. People thought it was a compliment at some of our screenings to tell me they had to be dragged there, because they didn’t think it was a film for them, or spoke of contemporaries who couldn’t be convinced to come with them, and being so surprised by how much they loved the film. To hear that over and over, it’s tough to stomach.”