Since its inception, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has handed out 425 nominations for best director. Exactly four of them have gone to black filmmakers — one of whom earned his citation just this year.
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins earned kudos for his work, making him the fourth-ever black best director nominee. He follows in the footsteps of John Singleton, nominated in 1992 for Boyz n the Hood, Precious director Lee Daniels (who got a nod in 2010) and 12 Years a Slave's Steve McQueen, nominated in 2014.
No black woman has ever been nominated for best director. Ava DuVernay likely came closest with her film Selma, which earned a best picture nomination in 2015 but no equivalent director nod.
No black director has ever won the Oscar, though McQueen's 12 Years a Slave did win best picture. (He lost the best director prize to Gravity's Alfonso Cuarón.) Should Jenkins win, he would continue a streak of directors of color winning the academy's top directing prize, following Cuarón's win in 2014, plus Birdman and The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu winning in 2015 and 2016.
Jenkins' film is also competing for best picture, best supporting actor, best supporting actress and other Oscars.