Black Actress Performances That Deserved Oscars

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Many Black actresses have range and versatility and have given us powerful performances.

However, they have been criminally underrated, especially regarding awards.

While this is starting to change, the pace is still glacial.

So, we have decided to come up with a list of Black actress performances that deserved Oscars but did not get them.

In some cases, the actress did not even receive nominations.

Angela Bassett – What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Black actress
Photo credit: Film Forum

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a biographical film about Tina Turner.

It shows her rise to superstardom from a humble upbringing.

We see her face abuse from her husband, Ike Turner, and she gathers courage until she eventually leaves him.

Angela Bassett gives a phenomenal performance as Tina Turner, making us empathize with and cheer for her.

Bassett received an Oscar nomination for her role, and she should have won it.

Whoopi Goldberg – The Color Purple (1985)

Black actress
Photo credit: Roger Ebert

The Color Purple follows Celie Harris during the early 20th century.

She experiences a series of issues like sexism, racism, domestic violence, and incest.

However, she later learns from two strong women the importance of valuing herself.

This is Whoopi Goldberg’s breakout role, and she hits it out of the park.

The Color Purple received 11 Oscar nominations—including Best Actress for Goldberg and Best Supporting Actress for Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery—but did not win a single one.

Pam Grier – Jackie Brown (1997)

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Photo credit: BFI

Pam Grier is no stranger to blaxploitation films.

In fact, she is among the genre’s pioneers with films like Foxy Brown and Coffy.

In Jackie Brown, she shows why she is the queen of blaxploitation.

Grier holds her own against high-caliber actors like Robert DeNiro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton.

She also kicks butt and makes the role her own.

Juanita Moore – Imitation of Life (1959)

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Photo credit: Festival des 3 Continents

Black women rarely received acting roles in the 1950s.

When they did, the roles were minor and often stereotypes.

Imitation of Life tries to subvert this by giving the Black character real depth and tackling racism.

And Juanita Moore acted her socks off, which eventually earned her an Oscar nomination.

She was only the third Black actress nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award.

And at the time, Hattie McDaniel was the only Black woman to have won an Oscar for her powerful (but dated) role in Gone with the Wind.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste – Secrets & Lies (1996)

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Photo credit: FilmAffinity

Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays Hortense, a highly-educated Black optometrist in London.

Since she was adopted, Hortense decides to trace her lineage.

She finds that her birth mother is a dysfunctional middle-class White woman.

Jean-Baptiste’s acting is so effortless that it feels like you’re following a real person’s life in a voyeuristic way.

For this reason, this exceptional Black actress received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and she should have won it.

Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

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Photo credit: Okayplayer

Viola Davis is one of the best actresses of our time, and she consistently gives her all in every role she plays.

She is the only Black person—actor or actress—to win the Triple Crown of Acting: she has won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.

She is already the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history with 4 nominations.

Davis earned her Oscar for Fences, but she also deserved one for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

She plays influential blues singer Ma Rainey as she goes through a turbulent recording session.

Both Davis and Chadwick Boseman give the performances most others would find impossible to match.

Black Actress Performances That Deserved Oscars: Conclusion

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Photo credit: Ebony Magazine

These actresses gave us reasons to laugh, cry, feel pain, hope, and joy.

They all deserved the highest awards in acting.

Hopefully, with the Oscars starting to award diverse actors, future exceptional Black actress performances will win their deserved awards.


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