Hosted by black-ish star Anthony Anderson for the ninth time, and with recurring appearances by his mom, the 53rd NAACP Image Awards aired on Saturday (Feb. 26) at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The ceremony, with many nominees and presenters attending virtually, was complete with a performance by Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige.
The NAACP Image Awards were jam-packed with fan-favorite presenters including Kerry Washington, LL Cool J, Issa Rae, Michael Strahan, Morgan Freeman, Paula Patton, Questlove, Simu Liu, Tiffany Haddish and Zendaya. Award-winner Rae quipped that she should host the show next year.
Non-televised winners were announced earlier this week, including Daniel Kaluuya and Regina King, who respectively won for outstanding supporting actor and actress in a motion picture. King also appeared in several commercial ads throughout the evening. Modern western film The Harder They Fall starring Idris Elba, King and more won for outstanding motion picture, on top of four pre-telecast awards.
With special honors presented to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Samuel L. Jackson and Nikole Hannah-Jones, here’s a look at some of the best moments at the 2022 show.
1. Questlove presents outstanding actress in drama series to Angela Bassett
The Roots’ frontman Questlove presented outstanding actress in a drama series from inside Harlem, New York’s National Jazz Museum. Bassett was named the winner for her work in 9-1-1, with fellow nominees including Queen Latifah and Octavia Spencer.
Bassett began, “First off, thank you NAACP for your support tonight and my entire career.” The acting veteran, who boasts a decades-long career, went on to acknowledge her fellow nominees.
2. Samuel L. Jackson receives the NAACP Chairman’s Award
Renowned actor Jackson was honored with the NAACP Chairman’s Award, which spotlights an individual who has completed impactful acts of public service while leveraging their platform to inspire change.
While receiving the honor, Jackson — who began his activism during his time attending Morehouse College — delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech.
“Thank you NAACP for bestowing this prestigious honor on me,” he began.
Quoting children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, he said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”
Jackson later added, “Right now, we still have things we need to do. The most important thing being the Voting Rights Act. I know we can’t change that, but we can put our legs, our bodies and voices to work to make sure that people do get out and vote no matter what they do to keep us from doing that.”
He went on to encourage others to fight for causes. Through the years, Jackson has supported countless causes including civil rights, and the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia and more.
3. Host Anthony Anderson wins outstanding actor in a comedy series
“I’d like to thank my mama for sleeping with my daddy and making me,” Anderson joked. His mom adoringly held his trophy close to her heart.
When mama Anderson said, “Finally, they got it right.” Anderson corrected her and said he’s been a frequent winner at this show.
4. Kerry Washington presents author Nikole Hannah-Jones the Social Justice Impact Award
For “using the brilliance of her mind and power of her pen,” Washington presented Hannah-Jones the Social Justice Impact Award. She went on to describe Hannah-Jones as a “guardian of Blackness.”
While accepting the award, Hannah-Jones said, “I am so incredibly honored. I grew up watching these awards, inspired and awed by the dazzling Black people.”
She went on to thank her parents and later addressed lawmakers who are pushing laws that aim to exclude or censor Black history.
“It’s not enough to hope to get better… it’s time for us to stand up and fight,” she said. Hannah-Jones published her book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, in November.
5. Mary J. Blige delivers an epic performance in a stunning dress
Blige’s highly anticipated performance comes just two weeks after she headlined the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and surprise guest 50 Cent. Her performance also comes a little more than two weeks after the release of her 14th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous.
Adorned in a beautiful purple gown, the veteran hitmaker opened her set with a performance of the title track from her new album. She then delivered a revamped version of her 1992 hit, “Love No Limit.” Blige was surrounded by a live band and background singers.
6. Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan Markle receive the President’s Award for their international acts of public service
The couple appeared visibly proud to receive the recognition. NAACP president Derrick Johnson presented the award, saying, “Through the work of their foundation and their unwavering commitment to the causes we believe in and share, this year’s recipients have demonstrated they are so deserving of this honor.”
“We are so deeply humbled to be here in the company of so many illustrious awardees,” Markle said.
Prince Harry began his speech by acknowledging the people of Ukraine, as they endure an attack by Russia. “We share a commitment to a life of service,” the doting husband went on about his wife.
The pair co-founded the NAACP and Archewell Foundation which launched a new NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award this year. Dr. Safiya Noble is the inaugural recipient.
7. Jennifer Hudson wins outstanding actress in a motion picture for Respect
Thanks to her incredible work starring as the late Aretha Franklin, Hudson took outstanding actress in a motion picture. She was thrilled to accept the award, saying, “This is for Ms. Franklin’s legacy. To her family, I wanna dedicate it to each and every one of them and to everyone who has supported me. I did not see this coming by any means but Lord knows I’m grateful.”
8. Morgan Freeman presents entertainer of the year award in his native Mississippi
Moments before Freeman appeared in a pre-taped clip, Anderson joked that he hopes the star, who he referred to as “the voice of God,” will play him in a biopic.
Nominees for entertainer of the year were Hudson, King, Lil Nas X, Megan Thee Stallion and Tiffany Haddish.
Hudson took home the prize, thanking Freeman for presenting her win. Fighting back tears, Hudson said she has watched “so many legends and icons” who have inspired her at past NAACP Image Awards, singling out Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Halle Berry as some of her inspirations. Hudson remained on stage with Anderson and his mom as they closed out the show.