BLACK HISTORY MONTH Honoree: Halle Berry

One of a series…

By Allan Jamail

February 1, 2024 to March 1, 2024 – People in the United States celebrate the achievements and history of African Americas as part of Black History Month. This week NC Star writer selected actress/singer Halle Berry for his first of a series recognizing Black History Month/African Americans and their achievements.

Black History Month is a month-long commemoration of African American history and achievement that takes place each February in the United 1976. The idea for a Black History Month was first conceived by the historian Carter G. Woodson and members of his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Together they organized a Negro History Week, beginning in February 1926. They selected the month of February for this celebration because it was close to the birthdays of U.S. Pres. Abraham Lincoln, who had been responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation, and the African American orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

During the next 50 years Negro History Week grew in popularity, with American cities initiating their own celebrations of Black achievements and with teachers — particularly in schools with a large percentage of African American students — using class time to discuss contributions to history made by notable African Americans. The civil rights movement also contributed to its popularity. Negro History Week was expanded to become Black History Month in 1976, with U.S. Pres. Gerald Ford urging Americans to participate in its observance.

Halle Maria Berry (/hæli/ HAL-ee; born Maria Halle Berry; August 14, 1966) is an American actress/singer. She began her career as a model and entered several beauty contests, finishing as the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and coming in sixth in the Miss World 1986. Her breakthrough film role was in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy, which led to roles in The Flintstones (1994) and Bulworth (1998) as well as the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Berry established herself as one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood during the 2000s. For her performance of a struggling widow in the romantic drama Monster’s Ball (2001), Berry became the only African American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and the first woman of color. Berry took on high-profile roles such as Storm in four installments of the X-Men film series (2000– 2014), the henchwoman of a robber in the thriller Swordfish (2001), Bond girl Jinx in Die Another Day (2002), and the title role in the much-derided Catwoman (2004).

Berry was born Maria Halle Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 14, 1966, to Judith Ann (née Hawkins), an English immigrant from Liverpool, and Jerome Jesse Berry, an African-American man. Her name was legally changed to Halle Maria Berry at the age of five. Her parents selected her middle name from Halle’s Department Store, which was then a local landmark in Cleveland. Berry’s mother worked as a psychiatric nurse, and her father worked in the same hospital as an attendant in the psychiatric ward; he later became a bus driver. They divorced when Berry was four years old, and she and her older sister Heidi Berry-Henderson were raised exclusively by their mother. She has been estranged from her father since childhood, noting in 1992 that she did not even know if he was still alive. Her father was abusive to her mother, and Berry has recalled witnessing her mother being beaten daily, kicked down stairs, and hit in the head with a wine bottle.

Berry grew up in Oakwood, Ohio, and graduated from Bedford High School, where she was a cheerleader, honor student, editor of the school newspaper, and prom queen. She worked in the children’s department at Higbee’s Department store. She then studied at Cuyahoga Community College.

In the 1980s, she entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Teen All American 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986. She was the 1986 Miss USA first runner-up to Christy Fichtner of Texas. In the Miss USA 1986 pageant interview competition, she said she hoped to become an entertainer or to have something to do with the media. Her interview was awarded the highest score by the judges. She was the first African American Miss World entrant in 1986, where she finished sixth, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Giselle Laronde was crowned Miss World.

Information in this article was compiled from library research and the internet.