Denzel Washington received the Cecil B. DeMille Award – which honors extraordinary contributions to the entertainment world – at the Golden Globes on Sunday.
The son of a beauty parlor owner and a Pentecostal minister, Washington grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, and took his first acting class while attending Fordham University in the late 1970s.
Sunday’s lifetime achievement honor is Washington’s third award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
The film earned Washington a Golden Globe nomination, an Oscar nod, and rave reviews.
“Denzel Washington stands at the center of the film, in a performance of enormous breadth,” Roger Ebert wrote.
The film earned Washington a Black Reel Award for best director.
“You know, the thing that makes me most proud is that I think I have a good eye for young actors,” Washington told EW before the film’s release.
Washington is only the third African-American recipient in the history of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which was established in 1952; Sidney Poitier was honored in 1982, and Morgan Freeman in 2012.
“Later on, I was offered another comedy, but it wasn’t funny to me – I thought it was quite racist. I didn’t take it, and I waited about six months and I got Cry Freedom.” The 1987 biopic about South African activist Stephen Biko earned Washington his first Oscar nomination.