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25 Black Women Who Broke Barriers In TV And Movies

In 2019, Ruth E. Carter became the first Black person to win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

1.

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar. She won Best Supporting Actress for her work in Gone with the Wind. It was the 12th Academy Awards.


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2.

In 2014, Amber Ruffin became the first Black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the US. She writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers.

3.

In 1934, Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture. She starred in the French movie Zouzou.

4.

In 2015, Viola Davis became the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, for her work on How to Get Away with Murder.

5.

When Ava DuVernay directed A Wrinkle in Time in 2018, she became the first Black woman to direct a film with a budget over $100 million.


Charley Gallay / Stringer

6.

And when A Wrinkle in Time was released, DuVernay became the first Black woman to direct a live-action film that earned $100 million in the United States.

7.

In addition, for her film Selma, DuVernay was the first Black woman nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the first Black woman to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

8.

At the same Academy Awards, also for DuVernay’s Selma, Oprah Winfrey became the first Black woman to be a producer for a film nominated for Best Picture.

9.

In 2009, Anika Noni Rose voiced Tiana in the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. Tiana was the first Black Disney princess.

10.

Diahann Carroll starred in the television series Julia, which premiered in 1968. She was the first Black woman to star in a TV series where the role was not a servant.

11.

In 1960, Madeline Anderson’s documentary Integration Report 1 was released — making it the first televised documentary to be directed by a Black woman.

12.

Anderson was also the first Black woman to executive produce and direct a nationally aired television series in 1977.

13.

In 2019, Ruth E. Carter won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther. She was the first Black person to win the award.

14.

At the same ceremony, Hannah Beachler won for Best Production Design, also for Black Panther. She was the first Black person nominated for Best Production Design.

15.

In 2017, Tiffany Haddish became the first Black woman stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live. It was SNL’s 43rd season.

16.

Cicely Tyson was the first Black woman to host Saturday Night Live. She hosted in 1979. It was SNL’s fourth season.

17.

On March 24, 2002, Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. She is still the only woman of color to win the award.

18.

Dorothy Dandridge was the first Black woman nominated for Best Actress, for Carmen Jones. The ceremony took place in 1955.

19.

In 2019, Robin Thede’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, the first major sketch show created by a Black woman, premiered. It is also the first sketch show starring Black women, and the first sketch show where every single writer is a Black woman.

20.

Thede was also the first Black woman to be head writer for a late-night talk show. In 2015, she became head writer for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.


Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

21.

For the 2017 film Mudbound, Dee Rees was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. She was the first Black woman nominated for the award.

22.

At the 1973 Oscars, Suzanne de Passe was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, making her the first Black woman nominated in a non-acting category. She was also the first person of color nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

23.

In 1991, Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust had a general theatrical release. It was the first movie directed by a Black woman to have a wide release in the United States.

24.

In 2016, Kathryn Bostic became the first Black woman score composer to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

25.

And in 1986, Dorothy E. Brunson became the first Black woman in the United States to own and operate a television station.

There are countless other Black women in entertainment — and in every field — who have been firsts. Let’s celebrate all of them.

TV and Movies

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