The disturbing lack of minority representation at the Oscars in recent years prompted a great deal of conversation and led to the creation of #OscarsSoWhite, a social media rallying cry used to highlight the problem plaguing the Academy Awards. But this year’s nominations saw a record six black actors receive nods due to their roles in critically-acclaimed films such as “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.”

Leading the way was Denzel Washington, who earned his seventh nomination for his role in “Fences,” the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. His co-star, Viola Davis, earned a nod for supporting actress, which is her third nomination overall. Both Washington (two Oscar wins) and Davis extended their records as the most nominated black actor and actress, respectively.

Ruth Negga received a nomination for lead actress for her performance in “Loving,” a film about an interracial couple whose battle against anti-miscegenation laws reached the Supreme Court. Negga is looking to become the second black woman to ever win an award in a lead category (Halle Berry achieved the feat first in 2002 for “Monster’s Ball”).

Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris received supporting nods for “Moonlight,” a drama that follows a young man through three phases of his life as he struggles to find himself. For Ali, the nomination caps an impressive year in which he accumulated 40-plus awards for film and television.

Octavia Spencer also landed a supporting actress nomination, the second of her career. She starred in “Hidden Figures,” which is based on the true story of three brilliant black women who helped America reach space with their mathematical prowess. Spencer already has an Oscar win under her belt for her memorable performance in 2011’s “The Help.”

The record-breaking year was undoubtedly aided by the public outcry that reached a fever pitch last year. But the true driving force of the diversity among nominees this year was simply the presence of a number of high-quality films featuring diverse casts as “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” were all nominated for best picture.

There still is work that needs to be done in Hollywood – primarily behind the camera and at the executive level – to ensure that stories by and about people of color continue to reach the masses so things don’t revert back to the status quo. Hopefully, the 2017 Oscars serves as a tangible step in the right direction.

Have you seen any of the films mentioned? Let us know your thoughts on the films and the performances of the nominated actors in the comment section.

Photo: David Lee/Paramount Pictures