At Sunday night’s Oscars, Morehouse College Alum, Spike Lee won his first competitive Academy Award and landed a full-circle moment, giving a shoutout to his famously snubbed 1985 film Do the Right Thing. The director, who won best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman (an award he shared with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott), delivered a rousing speech that ended with him urging viewers to get active in the next presidential election.
“Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history . . . let’s do the right thing!” he said, capping a speech that began with a bold declaration: “Do not turn that motherfucking clock on!”
The category was announced by Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, a frequent Lee collaborator who made sure to let the director know that the Knicks, his beloved basketball team, also won their game that night. After his win was announced, Lee quickly made his way to the stage and leapt into Jackson’s arms.
He began his speech by thanking his family, including kids Satchel and Jackson, and shouting out Black History Month (and pointedly noting that February is the shortest month of the year). Lee also brought the speech back around to his family, thanking his grandmother “who was a Spelman College graduate, even though her mother was a slave” and who helped put him through Morehouse College and New York University. “I give praise to our ancestors who built this country,” he added.
Lee’s Do the Right Thing mention at the end of his speech arrives 30 years after his landmark film was snubbed in the best-picture category (and Lee, too, was snubbed in the best-director category). The director was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2015, but the Do the Right Thing snub has gone down as one of the most notable missteps in Oscar history. This year’s ceremony marks the director’s first win in a competitive category. BlacKkKlansman, based on the true story of a black detective infiltrating the K.K.K., was nominated for six Oscars overall.