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In the 2013 Emmy Awards, Kerry Washington is the first African American woman to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in nearly 20 years. The last was Cicely Tyson for her role in Sweet Justice in 1995. Tyson was a leading lady for the major awards show, she won both for lead actress in a drama series and actress of the year in 1974 for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

Both a nominee and major presenter in this year’s Awards, Washington was accompanied by groundbreaking actress Diahann Carroll. Carroll was the star of “Julia” which was the first network comedy featuring a black person in non-stereotypical role in 1968.

The first black person to win an Emmy Award was Harry Belafonte. In 1960 he won the award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series for Tonight with Belafonte. Then in 1966, Bill Cosby became the first actor to win a lead actor Emmy award for his work in I Spy. Cosby would continue to follow with two consecutive years of nominations for I Spy in 1967 and 1968.

This year’s Emmy Awards welcome three distinguished nominees. Alfre Woodard was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “Steel Magnolias” and Don Cheadle was a part of the nominee pool for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series for his role in Showtime’s “House of Lies.” And the most anticipated category tonight: Kerry Washington is up for the outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her popular role in ABC’s “Scandal.”

This year’s presentation included a guest appearance by an old friend of nighttime who’s ready for round two, Arsenio Hall, along with guest announcer Blair Underwood.

African-Americans have been nominated 409 times, making up only 5% of the total and only 3% of the Primetime Emmy Award winners.

As presented by Studio System News, below is a complete list of Emmy Award winning actors:


1966 Bill Cosby I Spy Actor, Drama

1967 Bill Cosby I Spy Actor, Drama

1968 Bill Cosby I Spy Actor, Drama

1974 Cicely Tyson …Miss Jane Pittman Actress of the Year

1974 Cicely Tyson …Miss Jane Pittman Actress, Drama

1977 Louis Gossett Jr. Roots Guest Actor, Drama/Comedy

1979 Robert Guillaume Soap Sup. Actor, Comedy

1979 Esther Rolle …My German Soldier Sup. Actress, Special

1981 Isabel Sanford The Jeffersons Actress, Comedy

1984 Alfre Woodard Hill Street Blues Sup. Actress, Drama

1985 Robert Guillaume Benson Actor, Comedy

1986 Roscoe Lee Browne Cosby Show Guest Actor, Comedy

1987 Alfre Woodard L.A. Law Guest Actress, Drama

1988 BeahRichards Frank’s Place Guest Actor, Comedy

1991 James Earl Jones Gabriel’s Fire Actor, Drama

1991 Lynn Whitfield Josephine Baker Story Actress, Miniseries

1991 James Earl Jones Heat Wave Sup. Actor, Miniseries

1991 Madge Sinclair Gabriel’s Fire Sup. Actress, Drama

1993 Laurence Fishburne Tribeca Guest Actor, Drama

1993 Mary Alice I’ll Fly Away Sup. Actress, Drama

1994 Cicely Tyson Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All Sup. Actress, Miniseries

1995 Paul Winfield Picket Fences Guest Actor, Drama

1997 Alfre Woodard Miss Evers’ Boys Actress, Miniseries

1998 Andre Braugher Homicide… Actor, Drama

2000 Beah Richards The Practice Guest Actress, Drama

2002 Charles S. Dutton The Practice Guest Actor, Drama

2003 Charles S. Dutton Without A Trace Guest Actor, Drama

2003 Alfre Woodard The Practice Guest Actress, Drama

2004 Jeffrey Wright Angels in America Sup. Actor, Miniseries

2005 S. Epatha Merkerson Lackawanna Blues Actress, Miniseries

2006 Andre Braugher Thief Actor, Miniseries

2011 Loretta Devine Grey’s Anatomy Guest Actress, Drama

(Photo: AP)

Little Known Black History Fact: The Emmy Awards  was originally published on