This Day In History: February 19

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On February 19, 1992, 24-year-old recent film school graduate John Singleton becomes the youngest and first Black film director nominated for an Academy Award for his movie, Boyz n the Hood. The poignant coming-of-age drama set in gang-ridden South Central Los Angeles brought inner-city realities to the screen in a way not seen in Hollywood before. Its success created opportunities for a generation of Black filmmakers to tell their stories.

Written as Singleton’s undergraduate senior thesis—and typed on a USC campus library computer—Boyz N the Hood wowed critics at its Cannes Film Festival premiere and went on to earn $57.5 million at the box office. At a time when Hollywood movies reflected the American experience through the lens of white male directors like John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis and Oliver Stone, Boyz was an outlier: It centered the Black experience, told from the perspective of a Black writer-director and embodied by young Black actors including Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut and Nia Long, who gave breakout performances.

Singleton made history as both the youngest and the first African American nominated for a directing Oscar; his Boyz screenplay also received an Academy Award nomination. He went on to win the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best New Director and MTV Film and TV Awards for Best New Filmmaker and Best Movie, among other accolades.

The success of Boyz n the Hood launched him to fame, opening up a steady stream of producing and directing opportunities. Later that year, Singleton directed Michael Jackson’s music video “Remember the Time.” He followed that with Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), the historical drama Rosewood (1997), the crime film Shaft (2000), the coming-of-age drama Baby Boy (2001) and the action film 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), among others. 

Born in 1968 in Los Angeles, California, Singleton attended the University of Southern California, where he graduated with a degree in screenwriting in 1990. 

Singleton passed away at age 51 in 2019 due to a stroke.