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African-American nominees celebrate nominations

Halle Berry
Halle Berry was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the widow of a death-row inmate in "Monster's Ball."  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actress Halle Berry said Tuesday the Oscar nomination of herself and two other African-Americans in the top acting categories is an achievement worth celebrating.

Berry, who has won critical acclaim for her performance in the drama "Monster's Ball," noted that actor Sidney Poitier is scheduled to receive an honorary award the night of the Academy Awards and that Whoopi Goldberg is set to host the festivities. Both are African-Americans.

"So, it will be a really good night for people of color, as well as everybody else, but especially for us," a delighted Berry told CNN.

Actor Denzel Washington, already an Oscar winner for his supporting role in the Civil War drama "Glory," was nominated for best actor for his performance as a corrupt cop in "Training Day." Will Smith was nominated for his turn as Muhammad Ali in "Ali."

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It's the first time three African-Americans have been nominated for leading roles since 1972.

Smith said he, too, is pleased by the recognition of African-American actors. He noted that Poitier was the last man to win a best actor award "and that was 28 years ago." Poitier won best actor for 1963's "Lilies of the Field."

Said Smith: "I'm really honored and excited to be a part of this point in history."

Smith said the recognition for "Ali" is especially exciting because the film was made with "a 90 percent black cast."

Berry paid tribute to her peers in the best actress category and said hers is a rare spot to be in for a minority.

"Women of color aren't often named, so to be there and not only (to) represent myself -- but ... all of us in a way ... it feels great," Berry said.

The awards will be handed out March 24.



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