LOS ANGELES - Halle Berry became the first black actress to earn an Academy Award in a lead role and Denzel Washington became the second black man to win best actor, while "A Beautiful Mind" took top honors as best picture.
"A Beautiful Mind," which also won best director for Ron Howard, tied with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" with four Oscars total at Sunday's awards ceremony.
Berry won for her portrayal of a death-row widow involved with her husband's executioner in "Monster's Ball," and Washington took his prize for playing a corrupt policeman in "Training Day." They joined Sidney Poitier, who received the best-actor Oscar for 1963's "Lilies of the Field" and received a career-achievement award Sunday.
"Oh, my God," Berry said, sobbing and gasping in between words. "I'm sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
Berry's acceptance speech ran about three minutes, far surpassing the suggested 45-second limit.
"It's been 74 years, I've got to take this time," said Berry, referring to the number of years that the Oscars have been presented.
"Two birds in one night," joked Washington, a past supporting-actor winner for 1989's "Glory."
"Forty years I've been chasing Sidney. They finally give it to me, and they give it to him the same night," he added, referring to Poitier's honorary Oscar.
Stand-by-your-spouse roles earned supporting-performance Oscars for Jim Broadbent of "Iris" and Jennifer Connelly of "A Beautiful Mind."
Broadbent took the supporting-actor Oscar for his role as the befuddled but doting husband of Alzheimer's-afflicted writer Iris Murdoch, and Connelly won the supporting-actress honor as the steadfast wife of delusional math genius John Nash.
"By some beautiful twist of fate I've landed in this vocation that demands that I feel and helps me to learn," said Connelly, who played the mathematician's wife, Alicia. "I believe in love, that there's nothing more important. Alicia Nash is a true champion of love, and so thank you to her for her example."
Broadbent thanked Murdoch's husband, John Bayley, "who allowed us to plunder and I'm sure misrepresent his life with Iris."
Along with Poitier, Robert Redford received an honorary Oscar for career achievement.