Number of Black Oscar Nominees Hits Three-Year Low in 2020

The Oscars’ failure to nominate any female directors has ignited a fierce backlash, as has the lack of diversity among top acting nominees.

A deeper dive into the categories reveals that the number of black nominees hit a three-year low. Only five black people were nominated for Oscars in 2020. That’s down from 15 in 2019, 13 in 2018 and 18 in 2017.

In 2019, the only black acting nominee was Cynthia Erivo, who was nominated for best actress for “Harriet,” as well as best song for “Stand Up (From Harriet).” Composer Joshuah Brian Campbell, who co-wrote “Stand Up,” is also black. The other black nominees include “Les Misérables” director Ladj Ly, up for best international feature, and the “Hair Love” team of Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver, recognized in the best animated short category.

“It feels a bit like I’ve got a responsibility to represent all the people of color who have done incredible work this year because I do believe we’ve had some brilliant films made, shows come out this year and brilliant direction and writers,” Erivo told Variety at the SAG Awards. “I want hopefully for this to serve as an example as to why we need to start celebrating people of color as well — really paying attention to how we vote for them and how we vote for the people who are nominated. We need to see some changes.”

The lack of black nominees comes after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Oscars, took pains to diversify its voting body. The organization expanded its voting roles after failing to nominate any actors of color in 2016 and 2015 — a move that resulted in the #OscarsSoWhite movement. Since then, the group has added some 2,000 members, raising the percentage of minority members to 16% in 2018, an increase from 8% in 2015. However, there has been some controversy. The Academy counts new members from Spain as racial minorities, which some members privately object to, believing they should be considered white.

The lack of diversity disappointed some Oscar voters, who maintain that there were a number of movies, such as “Just Mercy,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” “Waves” and “Clemency,” that featured standout work from black performers and artisans. It’s also a set back after two of the top four acting categories in 2019 were won by black performers (“If Beale Street Could Talk’s” Regina King and “Green Book’s” Mahershala Ali).