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A look at black actors who won Oscars in the past
Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou came to the United States in 1990 and within a few years landed high-profile parts in films directed by Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. In 2003, he scored a best-supporting actor Oscar nomination for "In America," then repeated the feat three years later with "Blood Diamond" – an achievement matched only by Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. Hounsou lost on both occasions and has since appeared mostly in little-seen action pictures.
Invariably described as “terribly handsome,” Howard Rollins was often billed as “the next Sidney Poitier” on the strength of his Oscar-nominated turn, at 30, as Coalhouse Walker in "Ragtime" (1981) and his lead performance in Norman Jewison’s "A Soldier’s Story" three years later. Ironically, he ended up playing Poitier’s part in "In the Heat of the Night" (which had been helmed by Jewison), but it was the TV series, not a remake. Cocaine abuse plagued the years before his death in 1996.
If Viola Davis wins for best actress in "The Help," she’ll only be the second African-American female to have accomplished the feat in the Oscars’ 83-year history (Halle Berry was first) – and the only black female artist to have scored two acting considerations (the first, a best-supporting nod, was for "Doubt" in 2008). Whoopi Goldberg did it first, in reverse order, winning best-supporting actress for "Ghost"  and nominated for best actress in "The Color Purple" (1985).
At 44, Jamie Foxx remains the only African-American ever nominated for two acting Oscars in the same year. He did it in 2004, being nominated (and winning) for his lead as Ray Charles in "Ray" and as the resourceful cabbie opposite the psychotic Tom Cruise in "Collateral." Since then he has focused on being a singer, although there are reports that later this year he’ll appear in a Quentin Tarantino feature. Last year he was the voice of Nico the canary in the animated feature "Rio."
Whatever career momentum Jennifer Hudson may have had after taking the Oscar for her film debut in "Dreamgirls" was severely compromised 20 months later when her mother, brother and nephew were murdered in Chicago. Since 2008 she has concentrated on her singing career, turning down the lead in 2009’s "Precious" that earned Gabourey Sidibe an Oscar nomination, and serving as the face and body of WeightWatchers.