The Golden Globes are a hours away, and as Hollywood prepares to salute some of its biggest and brightest in film and television, the color barrier is still in clear view. For more than 70 years, several Black actors and actresses have been nominated for Globes, but only a small bunch have actually made it to the winner’s circle.
Furthermore, no Black director, or screenwriter has ever won a Golden Globe in the history of the ceremony.
So what gives? Unfortunately only a certain caliber of performances tend to grab the attention of the Hollywood Foreign Press. Award winners are typically playing some other well-known figure (battling inner demons, addiction, or anything else terrible), a down-and-out character (preferably one getting abused or abusing others), a boxer, a slave, or “the help.” At this point it’s pretty clear that if an actor wants to walk home with a Globe for a movie role, they must participate in a project that contributes to a stereotype, or rehash a historical time period — typically between slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.
The unwritten guidelines for Black actors to win big during awards season meets with deviation once in a while. Every so often a Black person will win for less-demeaning film gigs, or maybe a song.
This year, four black actors and one director grabbed nods in major categories. Idris Elba is up for the Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Drama for Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic on the late Nelson Mandela. Also in the Best Actor race is 12 Years A Slave actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for playing Solomon Northup, a man born free, only to be sold into slavery. His co-star Lupita Nyong’o is up for Best Actress in a Supporting role, and the film’s director Steven McQueen could walk away with the Best Director trophy. Another Black nominee in this year is Barkhad Abdi who plays a Somali pirate in the Tom Hanks-led flick Captain Phillips.
Although The Butler (yet another story hinged on Black servitude) was shut out this year, there’s clearly a pattern here, one that has gotten more and more obvious over the years.
Hit the gallery below to see the list of Black actors and actresses to win Golden Globes for performances on the silver screen.
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