For Octavia Spencer, it seemed appropriate that her win for supporting actress for “The Help” would come on the eve of Martin King Luther Jr. Day.

Spencer was eloquent backstage in paying tribute to the women who inspired the drama, set in Mississippi during the turbulent era of 1960’s civil rights movement. She said the movie was an example of how film can help educate and enlighten.

“I knew that for people 40 or over, this movie would strike a chord or be too painful to visit,” Spencer said. “People don’t like to go to the painful part, but the only way to grow and heal is to acknowledge that pain.

“These women represent scores of people,” she added. “How can we not pay homage to them?”

Cecil B. DeMille honoree Morgan Freeman also spoke of the role that film plays in changing perceptions over time.

“One of the more effective avenues for learning American history is movies,” Freeman said. “I would like to think that because of the trajectory of my career I might have had a little input in some of America’s history and some of the changes that have taken place in Hollywood.”