These final days of February are marked by two seemingly unrelated happenings, which, in actuality, combine for a singular story that is worth noting and remembering.
African-American History Month is coming to a close, just as one of the year's biggest cultural events--the Academy Awards--takes place. Both happenings conjure up memories of prejudice, and happier thoughts of progress.
The Academy Awards for 1939 left a blemish on the record of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, and remains a dark moment in African-American History.
That year, Hattie McDaniel became the first person of color to win an Oscar--for her role in "Gone With The Wind". The honor was marred, however, by the discriminatory treatment she endured that evening. She was given "back of the bus" seating--prevented from sitting with fellow cast members from "Gone With The Wind".
But since that slight, that slap, progress has been swift and steady. Twenty-five years after Hattie McDaniel's Oscar, another actor of color, Sidney Poitier, won the Best Actor award for his performance in "Lilies of the Field", and he was accorded markedly better treatment.
And in today's world, while some prejudice still exists, actors such as Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and James Earl Jones are celebrated for their talent, with little thought given to the color of their skin.
The Academy Awards must be remembered for its prejudice--but also for its progress.