After a year of national tragedy, mourning, and spiritual revival, you would think a glitzy, glamorous, self-congratulatory affair like the Oscars would ring hollow and seem inappropriate. Instead, this year's Academy Awards ceremony offered compelling speeches, moments of genuinely moving drama, and surprising displays of humility and sincerity. Humility? At the Oscars?

"This moment is so much bigger than me," said Halle Berry as she received her Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night. It was hard not to be moved as Berry—the first African American actress ever to win the award—wept with joy. She won for an emotional and powerful performance in Monster's Ball, playing a grief-stricken woman coping with the execution of her Death Row husband, struggling to raise a troubled son, working hard to pay the bills, and enduring the racism of the South. While her performance in the film was certainly Oscar-worthy, her performance on the Oscar stage will stand as a more memorable and meaningful moment in the history of entertainment. In an industry so fraught with dirty politics, it was wonderful to see something go so right.

As Berry fought to regain her composure, she named a few of the many wonderful African American actresses who have gone before her and were never properly acknowledged for their excellent work—from Dorothy Dandridge and Diahann Carroll to actresses working today like Angela Bassett and Jada Pinkett Smith—actresses whom Berry said were standing beside her in that moment.

Meawhile, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, criticized for so many years for neglecting to honor black actors, cast off the burden of its mistakes and demonstrated that, yes, the times have changed. Not only did it choose to honor Berry, ...

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