Oscars Not So White: Most Diverse Nomination List in a Decade

Nonwhite nominees also set records in screenplay and documentary feature categories

Last Updated: January 24, 2017 @ 4:45 PM

Tuesday’s Oscar nominations offered up the most nonwhite nominees in over a decade, on the heels of a major diversity push within the academy and a two-year #OscarsSoWhite protest.

Seven nominees were people of color, including Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) and Dev Patel (“Lion”); Best Actor for Denzel Washington (“Fences”); and Best Actress for Ruth Negga (“Loving”). In addition, for the first time in history, there are three black nominees for Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”).

The tally accounts for the most nonwhite acting nominees of any year since 2007, when seven nonwhite performers also received acting nominations.

Four of this year’s Best Picture nominees — “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion” and “Moonlight” — are led by nonwhite casts. To say nothing of the record five black nominees in the Documentary Feature category, including Ava DuVernay (“13th”), Raoul Peck and Hébert Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Ezra Edelman (“O.J.: Made in America”) and Roger Ross Williams (“Life, Animated”).

Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) became only the fourth black director to earn a Best Director nomination.

In addition, Jenkins, “Moonlight” co-writer Tarell McCraney and “Fences” screenwriter August Wilson snagged nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, the first time that three African Americans have earned writing nominations in the same year. Lonne Elder (“Sounder”) and Suzanne de Plasse (“Lady Sings the Blues”) both earned screenplay nods back in 1972.

Joi McMillon, who edited “Moonlight” with Nat Sanders, became the first African American woman to earn a nomination for film editing — and the first African American since Hugh A. Robertson earned one for 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy.”

Bradford Young (“Arrival”) became the first African American to earn a cinematography nomination — and the first nonwhite person in that category since Remi Adefarasin earned a nod for 1998’s “Elizabeth.”

“Manchester by the Sea” producer Kimberly Steward also became the first African American woman since Oprah Winfrey (“Selma”) to earn a Best Picture nomination. She’s competing against two other African Americans, Pharrell Williams (“Hidden Figures”) and Denzel Washington (“Fences”), in the category.

The more diverse nominee slate follows two years in which the Academy neglected to nominate a single nonwhite person in any of the acting categories, leading to widespread protests and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.

In January, the Academy made “a sweeping series of substantive changes” to its rules to change the face of its overwhelmingly white, male and older voting body.

The current Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is one of four African Americans on the 54-member board — and she helped initiate the changes, which included a 10-year membership term which can be renewed if the member is still active in motion pictures at the time of expiration.

By June, 25 to 30 percent of the new member invitations went to women, and about 15 percent to people of color.

Time will tell how the new changing Academy will vote when it comes to the nominees. The Academy Awards air Feb. 26 on ABC.