“12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen is now part of Oscars history thanks to the film’s win for Best Picture. McQueen is the first black man to win an award under this category in the 86 years of the Academy Awards.
As Buzzfeed reports (March 3), the Best Picture Oscar win for “12 Years A Slave” represents progress for blacks in Hollywood. During the 86 years that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been handing out coveted golden statues, few blacks have been nominated in this category. "Obviously, it's a mark of development. It's just obviously a progression. The background characters are now in the foreground and their lives are being recognized in a way, more ever than before,” director Steve McQueen said backstage at the Oscars Sunday.
Prior Oscar nods for Best Picture include executive producer and composer Quincy Jones for “The Color Purple”, director Lee Daniels for “Precious”, producer Broderick Johnson for “The Blind Side” and producer Reginald Hudlin for “Django Unchained”.
Last year Cheryl Boone Isaacs became the first black American to become the 35th president of AMPAS. Boone Isaacs is also the third woman to hold this office, following Bette Davis and Fay Kanin. Diversity and the expansion of mentoring programs are on her agenda as president of the Academy.
The Academy’s efforts to bring diversity into the film industry is apparent with its recognition of diverse nominees during the past 15 years. Sunday night was also a historic event for Latinos with Alfonso Cuaron taking home the Oscar for Best Director for “Gravity”.
Other Oscar wins for “12 Years a Slave” include screenwriter John Ridley for Best Adapted Screenplay and Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress. "When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid," Nyong'o said during her acceptance speech.