Oscar to Oscar: Black Filmmakers and the Academy
The recent recognition for Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins does not erase a legacy of neglect by the Academy.
The recent 2018 Oscar® nominations heralded Jordan Peele as only the fifth African-American ever to appear in the Best Director category. Despite their presence in the filmmaking industry from the beginning, and despite actors like Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, and Lou Gossett Jr. earning Oscars® for their performances, creative artists that worked behind the camera would not be recognized until Spike Lee emerged on the film scene . His nomination for Do The Right Thing opened the door for other black writer/directors to draw from their own experiences and receive Hollywood accolades for it.
Vanguard African-American auteur Oscar Micheaux made dozens of films about black identity in the early 20th century, and his experience bears directly on contemporary filmmakers like Barry Jenkins or Jordan Peele, whose topical work now finds mainstream success. Peele has the chance to make history if he wins the Best Director prize. Thus, the experience of black filmmakers has stretched from Oscar to Oscar®, and spanned many milestones in the process.