Films of Freedom: Milestones

This is the first installment of Films of Freedom, a Black History Month series curated by The North Star to celebrate the artists that paved the way for Black creators today.

All my life I’ve been obsessed with movies, and their ability to transport me to other worlds. To show me places I may never get to see. All my life, I have done what many people do when looking at a piece of art; attempt to find reflections of myself within it.

As a Black child, this has not always been easy. My people were not always represented accurately.

As a current college film student, I understand now more than ever just how much straight, cis white men dominate the industry. I also understand that without Black actors, actresses, writers, directors, cinematographers, editors — without Black people in general, the film industry would not be half as incredible as it is today.

While people of color rarely receive the artistic recognition they deserve, their contributions to this art form have and continue to be instrumental.

I want to begin by highlighting the milestones Black artists have already accomplished, and the many more we have to go.

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Actress: Hattie McDaniels - Gone With the Wind

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Actor: Sidney Poitier - Lilies of the Field

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Original Song Score: Prince - Purple Rain

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Picture: Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele - Get Out

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature: Peter Ramsey - Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

First Black person to win the Oscar for Best Costumes: Ruth E. Carter - Black Panther

No Black person has won Best Director.

No Black Person has won Best Editor.

No Black person has won Best Cinematographer.

No Black Person has won Best Live Action Short Film.

No Black person has won Best International Feature.

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