However the night ended, Oscars 2014 was set up to be a big year for Black films, Black directors and Black actors. The 86th annual Academy Awards was easily the most diverse ever thrown. An unprecedented number of Black presenters and performers took the stage—Kerry Washington, Will Smith, Michael B. Jordan, Tyler Perry, Jamie Foxx and Pharrell Williams all had time up onstage—and 12 Years a Slave culminated its “critical darling” status from the entire awards season into an Oscar win.
In the end, newbie actress Lupita Nyong’o collected a Best Supporting Actress trophy, 12 Years a Slave took home Best Picture, and screenwriter John Ridley won the Best Adapted Screenplay award.
EBONY.com chatted with some of the night’s biggest Black stars on the red carpet, and had them weigh in on how it felt to attend the blackest Oscars ceremony ever.
John Singleton: “Yes, I always imagined a night like this. It’s a progression of where we are in the world. The media is seeing the world is full of people of color. Films are reflecting that now. Black people from across the diaspora are being represented this year.”
Lupita Nyong’o: “No! No, I never imagined a night like this! Never.”
John Ridley: “I’m so appreciative of this film and this moment. But the thing that I’m most appreciative of is that people are recognizing that this is not Black history. This is not even history. These are our stories. Our stories deserve to be told. And this is true of Oscar Grant’s story [in Fruitvale Station] and the story created around Cecil Gaines’s story [in The Butler]. And Nelson Mandela [in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom]. It is a moment. When these films start to make 50 and 60 million dollars and 100 million dollars, they’re not niche films. People appreciate them across the board.”
Viola Davis: “Listen, we’ve had a banner year for African-American film. I hope it continues. A lot of them did not make it to the Oscars, but I hope they make it into the grand fabric of what we call cinema.”
Sidney Poitier: “There were many people who went before me, and they made the room for me. And it was my responsibility to try as best I could to make room for those who will follow. And that kind of chain, I think, would describe how we have moved along.”
Adepero Oduye: “America’s very diverse, and what’s happening more and more is reflecting the diversity that’s actually happening. I hope we can do more and more of this.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor: "[12 Years a Slave] was an amazing journey. From the moment that I read the script and the book and got introduced to Solomon Northrup and the amazing journey he had, I felt that it was powerful and really strong. In this experience, the best has been people receiving the film in the spirit it was made—that has been the most incredible part of it. When I first heard of the book, I knew nothing about Solomon Northrup. I’d never heard about the book or his story. I think it’s a shame that was the case. This is incredibly valuable, and an incredible document of a person who went through an experience, and it should be as known as any other book. I’m thrilled that people have taken that on board and we’ve introduced it to younger people.”
Alfre Woodard: “It’s a big story. It’s a big chunk of who we are as Americans, who were are as Brits, as Caribbeans and as African people. You tell a story like this, it needs a big carpet.”
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EBONY Entertainment Editor