ANIMALS
FUNNY
INSPIRING
LIFESTYLE
NEWS
PARENTING
RELATIONSHIPS
SCIENCE AND NATURE
WHOLESOME
WORK
Contact Us Privacy Policy Cookie Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

25 times Black women broke racial barriers in the film and television industry

As we honor the history and achievements of Black Americans this month, let's take a look back at 25 times Black women made movie and TV history.

25 times Black women broke racial barriers in the film and television industry
Cover Image Source: (L) Diahann Carroll, UK, 18th January 1965. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (R) Ava DuVernay on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Although the fight against the racial inequities and the systemic racism that is rooted deep in our social fabric is far from over, young Black kids today are in an unprecedented position of being able to see themselves represented in almost every aspect of life. This long-awaited shift in society wouldn't have been possible without the determination and sacrifices of countless Black artists who broke through racial barriers in the film and television industry. And so, as we honor the history and achievements of Black Americans this month, let's take a look back at 25 times Black women made movie and TV history.



 

1. In 1934, Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture. 



 

2. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar for her work in Gone with the Wind.



 

3. Dorothy Dandridge was the first Black woman nominated for Best Actress. She was nominated in 1955 for her role in Carmen Jones.

Image Source: American singer and actress Dorothy Dandridge (1923 - 1965) in London, 25th April 1956. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

4. Madeline Anderson's documentary Integration Report 1 became the first televised documentary to be directed by a Black woman with its release in 1960.

Image Source: Madeline Anderson/IMDb

 

5. Anderson was also the first Black woman to direct and executive produce a nationally aired television series in 1977.



 

6. Diahann Carroll made history as the first Black woman to star in a TV series where the role was not a servant when she starred in the 1968 television series Julia.



 

7. In 1973, Suzanne de Passe was nominated for Best Original Screenplay Oscar, making her the first Black woman nominated in a non-acting category. She was also the first person of color nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

8. The first Black woman to host Saturday Night Live was Cicely Tyson. She hosted in 1979.

Image Source: Portrait of Academy Award winning American actress Cicely Tyson smiling and raising her arms in the air during a visit to London, February 19th 1973. (Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images)

 

9. In 1986, Dorothy E. Brunson became the first Black woman in the United States to own and operate a television station. 



 

10. Julie Dash's 1991 film Daughters of the Dust was the first movie directed by a Black woman to have a wide release in the United States.



 

11. On March 24, 2002, Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Image Source: Actress Halle Berry poses with her Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for "Monster's Ball" backstage during the 74th Annual Academy Awards March 24, 2002 at The Kodak Theater in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

 

12. In 2009, Anika Noni Rose voiced Tiana — the first Black Disney princess — in the Disney film The Princess and the Frog.

13. Amber Ruffin became the first Black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the US in 2014.



 

14. In 2015, her work on How to Get Away with Murder made Viola Davis the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

 



 

15. In 2016, Kathryn Bostic became the first Black woman score composer to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Image Source: Composer / Artist Kathryn Bostic speaks on a panel during ESSENCE House: Hollywood Edition at NeueHouse Los Angeles on February 07, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

 

16. Dee Rees became the first Black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2017 film Mudbound.

17. In 2017, Tiffany Haddish became the first Black woman stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live.

 



 

18. Ava DuVernay became the first Black woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million when she directed A Wrinkle in Time in 2018.



 

19. She also became the first Black woman to direct a live-action film that earned $100 million in the United States following the movie's release.

20. Furthermore, DuVernay's film Selma made her the first Black woman nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the first Black woman to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

21. That same year, again for Selma, Oprah Winfrey became the first Black woman to be a producer for a film nominated for Best Picture.



 

22. In 2019, Ruth E. Carter became the first Black person to win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther.



 

23. Hannah Beachler made history at the same ceremony when she won for Best Production Design, also for Black Panther.

Image Source: Hannah Beachler, winner of the Production Design award for 'Black Panther,' attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

 

24. Robin Thede's A Black Lady Sketch Show, the first major sketch show created by a Black woman, premiered in 2019. It is also the first sketch show starring Black women and the first-ever sketch show with a complete Black women writers team.

25. Thede was also the first Black woman to be head writer for a late-night talk show. She became head writer for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore in 2015.



 

More Stories on Upworthy