The Television Academy gave out a record number of Emmy nominations to Black actors in 2020. Over the weekend, the Emmys followed that up by giving a record number of awards to Black performers.
Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (both of HBO’s Watchmen), Uzo Aduba (FX on Hulu’s Mrs. America), and Zendaya (HBO’s Euphoria) all won honors during Sunday’s ceremony. They join Eddie Murphy, Maya Rudolph, and Ron Cephas Jones, who won guest acting Emmys on Saturday. The seven Emmy wins by Black actors in the drama, comedy, and limited series fields top the previous high of six, set two years ago.
Rudolph also won a second Emmy this week for outstanding voiceover performance for her work on Netflix’s animated series Big Mouth. Black actors (Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones of Quibi’s #FreeRayshawn) also earned both short-form acting awards, and RuPaul won his fifth straight Emmy for best reality host.
With her win for lead actress in a limited series or movie, King tied the record for most Emmys won by a Black actor, with four. She now shares the mark with Alfre Woodard; her Emmys have all come since 2015 and are all for different roles.
Aduba won her third Emmy for playing Shirley Chisholm in Mrs. America; her previous two came for her work on Orange Is the New Black. Ron Cephas Jones is also a repeat winner; he also won for guest actor in a drama in 2018 for his role on NBC’s This Is Us.
Murphy and Rudolph — whose guest acting wins came for the same episode of Saturday Night Live from December 2019 — and Zendaya picked up their first career Emmys this week. Zendaya is the youngest ever winner for lead actress in a drama series and just the second Black woman to win in that category, following Viola Davis in 2015.
King and Aduba also wore shirts featuring the likeness and name of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, during the ceremony.
“I love being a Black woman, I loved being a Black girl,” King told reporters after her win. “I love being American, and it’s important that people see all of those things together, and when you have the platform celebrate that and remind those that tend to look past Black girls, Black women. When I saw my sister Uzo had on this same shirt it just was a confirmation that this was right.”