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A black history-making Oscars: Spike Lee, ‘Black Panther’, Regina King and more reign supreme

Marvel Studios

(LOS ANGELES) — Black excellence regined supreme during the 91st annual Academy Awards Sunday night.

Spike Lee was the evening’s ultimate show stopper when the director received a standing ovation for his powerful acceptance speech after winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his film BlacKkKlansman.

Lee co-wrote the project — based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1978 — with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott.

Spike was welcomed on the stage by his fellow Morehouse brother, Samuel L. Jackson, and spoke about the significance of the moment, his ancestors who paved the way, and his hope for the future.

“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner,” Lee said. “Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”

This was Lee’s first official Oscar win, although he did receive an honorary Academy Award in 2015.

While Lee was one to watch during the big event, the night kicked off with an emotional moment from first-time Oscar nominee Regina King, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Barry Jenkins’ drama, If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of the 1974 James Baldwin novel of the same name.

Dressed in white, King shed tears of joy and gratitude as she gave her speech thanking friends, family, and those who have supported her along the way.

“James Baldwin birthed this baby and Barry, you nurtured her, you surrounded her with so much love and support, so it’s appropriate for me to be standing here because I’m an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone,” King said.

With her award, King became the eight black female to win an Oscar for Best Supporting actress following Hattie McDaniel, who was the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar and the first to win the award in 1939, for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.

While King led the epic night of wins for black cinema, the actress was soon joined by three-time Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter, who won for Best Costume Design for her work on Marvel’s Black Panther. Carter, the first African-American to win in her category, was previously nominated for Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcom X and the 1997 historical drama Amistad. 

Carter described her win as “a long time coming,” and made sure to thank Lee for giving her career a start with his 1988 film School Daze, where she also served as his costume designer.

“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king,” she said in her speech. “It’s been my life’s honor to create costumes.”

Black Panther also picked up another historical win for Hannah Beachler, who was the first black person to ever be nominated for Best Production Design. In her moving acceptance speech, Beachler thanked Black Panther‘s director Ryan Coogler, whom she said “made her a better person.”

Marhershala Ali took home his second Best Supporting Actor nominee for his role the feel-good film Green Book. During his speech, he dedicated his Oscar to his grandmother, whom he said told him that “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

Ali, the first Muslim to win an Oscar, is also the first black actor to win two Best Supporting Actor Oscars.  His first, of course, was in 2017, for Moonlight.

Other notable wins of the night included Peter Ramsey, who became the first African-American to be nominated for Best Animated Feature. He won alongside his co-directors Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseBlack Panther also nabbed the Oscar for Best Original Score.

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