This year’s Emmy Awards, which aired Sunday, Sept. 18, on ABC, was not the best night for black actresses in Hollywood. Although two of them, Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross, made many proud, King was the only black woman to win this award season.
She won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her portrayal of Terri Lacroix in ABC’s American Crime; King also won this award last year.
Speaking of last year’s Emmys, Viola Davis, lead actress on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, became the first black woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. This year, Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s black-ish, made Emmy history again for black women.
Though she did not win, Ross became the first black women in thirty years to be nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. According to Essence magazine, the last black woman nominated in this category was Phylicia Rashad; she is well-known in The Cosby Show as Clair Huxable. In addition to Rashad, Nell Carter (Gimme a Break!), Diahann Carroll (Julia) and Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) were the other black actresses up for an Emmy in this category. However, Sanford is the only one who has won so far. Veep actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus won this year for that category.
In addition to Ross and Hall, four other black actresses were nominated for Emmy’s this year. Scandal’s Kerry Washington was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her part in HBO’s Confirmation as Anita Hill. Audra McDonald, who played Billie Holiday, in Lady at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, was also in the running. Sarah Paulson, also in American Crime, received the award that night.
Taraji P. Henson (Empire) and Davis were nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for their characters Cookie Lyon and Annalise Keating. This award went to Tatiana Maslany, who is in Orphan Black.
Last year, five black women were nominated for Emmys, including Davis and King. Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Queen Latifah (Bessie) and Henson made the bunch. Out of this, only three of them won: Davis, King and Aduba.
Shows like Queen Sugar and Greenleaf, airing this year on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), feature black actresses in leading and supporting roles. Perhaps next year’s Emmys will provide even more opportunity for black actresses.