Viola Davis made history Sunday as the first African American to win lead actress in a drama. Combined with Uzo Aduba’s and Regina King’s wins earlier in the evening, the three victories for African American actresses ties a record set in 1991 for most acting Emmys awarded to black women in a single year.
“Game of Thrones” also made some Emmys history. Combined with the Creative Emmys it took home last week, the series won 12 Emmy Awards this year (including its first for drama series), which is the most any series has won in a single year.
Davis, who plays powerful law professor Annalise Keating on ABC’s hit freshman show ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ has already won a SAG Award for her performance on the show.
She was also previously nominated for a Golden Globe for the role in the Shonda Rhimes’ executive produced series created by Peter Nowalk.
While accepting the prestigious award, Davis’ powerful speech moved a number of audience members, including actress Kerry Washington, to tears.
‘In my dreams and visions, I seemed to see a line, and on the other side of that line were green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white ladies, who stretched out their arms to me over the line, but I couldn’t reach them no-how,’ Davis said, quoting Harriet Tubman in her acceptance speech.
‘Let me tell you something: the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.
‘You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.’
An emotional Davis continued on by thanking the other actresses of color, including Washington, Halle Berry, Meagan Good, Gabrielle Union and fellow nominee Taraji P. Henson.
‘Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy.’ Davis, who is a graduate from the prestigious Juilliard School, concluded.
Her speech was a highlight from the show and also drew a standing ovation from Henson in the crowd.
It is likely that Davis quoted Tubman in her speech because she is reportedly in the process of developing an HBO telepic about the Underground Railroad leader’s life.
Before taking home the big win on Sunday, Davis told Variety that she is happy that ‘a lot of artists of color are being acknowledged.’
Several celebs have taken to Twitter to congratulate Davis for her victory as well as react to her emotional acceptance speech. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, Sanaa Lathan, Gabrielle Union and Idris Elba are among those who tweeted well wishes to Viola.