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All Hail Ruth E. Carter: The First Black Woman To Win Two Oscars

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Carter’s award etches her into history alongside the very few Black women who’ve been allowed to make strides at the Academy Awards.

Last night, when Ruth E. Carter departed the Academy stage for a second time for Best Costume Design, she ascended to a space no Black woman had yet voyaged. With two gilded statuettes on her industry mantle, Carter is now the first Black woman to win multiple Oscar awards.

At the 95th Academy Awards, Carter’s triumph for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever came to no surprise as her sartorial storytelling crafted about 2100 culturally-distinct designs. “I grapple with weighing what was more exciting than the next because this is a celebration and a tribute to Chadwick [Boseman] and the way he poured himself into the first movie,” Carter told Essence in a previous interview about working on the film.

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She previously won in 2018 for Black Panther — which was the first Marvel film ever to snag an Academy award. Yet, Carter remains the only African-American to win in her respective category of costume design. Her multiple Oscars record is preceded by only four other Black male winners: Denzel Washington in 2002, Mahershala Ali in 2019, and sound mixers Willie D. Burton and Russell Williams II.

(L-R) Ruth E. Carter, winner of the Best Costume Design award for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, and Angela Bassett, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, pose in the press room during the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

“She endures, she loves, she overcomes,” Carter extolled in her acceptance tribute, nodding to the Black women who she’s centered in her design, including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stars Letitia Wright, Dominique Thorne, and Oscar-nominated star Angela Bassett. “She is every woman in this film. She is my mother.”

Her speech extended gratitude to Black Panther writer-director Ryan Coogler, her mother Mabel Carter who died “this past week,” and to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “recognizing this superhero that is a Black woman.”

“This is for my mother. She was 101,” Carter added. “This film prepared me for this moment. Chadwick, please take care of mom.” Black Panther: Wakanda Forever traveled the fictitious continent of Wakanda as it grappled with grief in the wake of King T’Challa’s death — a reflection of the world’s lamentation of Chadwick Boseman’s passing. Boseman, the film series’ main character, passed away at 43 in 2020 after a furtive fight with colon cancer. 

Carter’s costume resume was previously nominated for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992) and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997). Moreover, Carter won Best Costume Design at the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards for her work in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, where Angela Bassett also won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Queen Ramonda.