But who was the first person of color to co-host the Oscars? And who was the first person of color to host all by him or herself? Let’s take a look.
April 10, 1972: Sammy Davis Jr., who blazed many trails in show business, became the first person of color to co-host the Oscars. He teamed with comedian Alan King, two-time Oscar winner Helen Hayes and past and future Oscar winner Jack Lemmon. This may have been the peak year of Davis’ long career. In January, he was the guest star on perhaps the most famous episode (“Sammy’s Visit”) of what was then TV’s top-rated series, All in the Family. In June, he landed his only No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, “The Candy Man.”
April 2, 1974: Diana Ross became the first woman of color to co-host the Oscars. She did the honors with box-office king Burt Reynolds and a pair of past Oscar winners, David Niven and writer/director/actor John Huston. Ross had been nominated for best actress the year before for her first film, Lady Sings the Blues, but lost to Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. Ross had a pair of top 20 hits on the Hot 100 in 1974. Her solo hit “Last Time I Saw Him” reached No. 14 in February. “My Mistake (Was to Love You),” a duet with Marvin Gaye, hit No. 19 in May. Ross’ daughter, TV star Tracee Ellis Ross — who was born 17 days after Lady Sings the Blues opened in October 1972 — announced this year’s Oscar nominees on Feb. 8, along with actor Leslie Jordan.
April 8, 1975: Davis became the first person of color to co-host twice. His co-hosts this time were Bob Hope (who hosted or co-hosted the Oscars a total of 19 times, more than anyone else), past Oscar winner Frank Sinatra and future Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine.
March 28, 1977: Richard Pryor co-hosted with past Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, future Oscar winner Warren Beatty, and past and future Oscar winner Jane Fonda. Pryor won a Grammy for best comedy recording in February 1977 for his 1976 album Bicentennial N*****. He also starred in the 1977 film Greased Lightning, which was loosely based on the story of Wendell Scott, the first Black NASCAR race winner.
April 11, 1983: Pryor became the second person of color to co-host twice. His co-hosts this time were Minnelli, her Oscar-nominated Arthur co-star Dudley Moore and past Oscar winner Walter Matthau. Pryor won a Grammy for best comedy recording in February 1983 for Live on the Sunset Strip. He also released two films that year, Superman III and the stand-up film Richard Pryor: Here and Now.
March 21, 1994: Whoopi Goldberg became the first person of color to host solo. She hosted again on March 25, 1996; March 21, 1999; and March 24, 2002. Goldberg is one of only four people to have hosted the Oscars solo four or more times. Hope hosted solo 12 times, followed by Billy Crystal (nine times) and Johnny Carson (five times). Goldberg was Oscar-nominated for best actress for her first film, The Color Purple (1985), and won best supporting actress five years later for Ghost.
Feb. 27, 2005: Chris Rock became the second person of color to host solo. He hosted again on Feb. 28, 2016.
You may have noticed that no Latinos or Asian Americans are listed. Clearly, there is history still to be made.