Hattie McDaniel wins Oscar for ‘Mammy’ role: First, McDaniel endured the indignity of being barred from the premiere of her own film, Gone With the Wind, in Atlanta. Then, at the 1940 Oscars, she won the best supporting actress award, but she was still forced to sit in a segregated section of the audience.
Color Purple goes 0 for 11: Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s best-selling book The Color Purple was a big hit critically and commercially. Yet despite scoring 11 Academy Award nominations, it won none on awards night (tying a record). Some felt the film’s subject matter turned off Oscar voters.
Spike Lee snubbed: Despite being hailed as a revolutionary film on race relations, Lee’s Do The Right Thing is left out of the major Oscar races in 1989. Adding insult to injury, the far less edgy racially-tinged Driving Miss Daisy scores a best picture nod and wins.
Rev. Jesse Jackson protests the Oscars: In 1996, only 1 in 166 nominees was African-American and Rev. Jackson was incensed. ‘’It doesn’t stand to reason that if you are forced to the back of the bus, you will go to the bus company’s annual picnic and act like you’re happy,’’ Jackson said.
Halle makes history with Monster’s Ball: While many African-Americans applauded Halle Berry’s barrier-breaking Oscar win for 2001’s Monster’s Ball, there was plenty of griping that the sexually explicit role she won for was demeaning.
Denzel finally wins best actor by going ‘bad’: “Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?” Jadakiss famously asked after Denzel Washington finally won best actor for his first villainous role in Training Day. Although the role won rave reviews, some felt it was far from his best or most dignified work.
Crash upsets Brokeback Moutain: In 2005, Brokeback Moutain, a sensitive portrait of two closeted gay cowboys in love, racked up the majority of critics awards leading up to the big night. In one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history it lost best picture to Crash, a polarizing melodrama about race relations in LA.
Three 6 Mafia wins Oscar for Hustle & Flow song: In 2006, Three 6 Mafia made history by becoming the first rap act to win a best song Oscar (for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”). Still many viewers felt the song and the film that inspired it were in poor taste.
Polarizing Precious: The acclaimed adaptation of the novel Push really divided black audiences, with some praising its harsh honesty and others complaining that it reinforced negative stereotypes of blacks. It wound up being one of the most successful ‘black’ films in Oscar history.
The Help backlash: The Help is the biggest hit of all this year’s best picture nominees and its stars, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, are likely acting winners. Yet, some black critics (like Tavis Smiley) cringe at the domestic worker roles they’re playing.
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The black community has long had a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards. Hollywood’s highest honors have only recently started to become more inclusive and even still, the black performances they’ve chosen to recognize are often polarizing and controversial. As we gear up for the awards tonight, and anticipate The Help’s success, theGrio is looking back at the top 10 biggest black Oscar scandals of all time.