Three black actors took the spotlight at Sunday night’s 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards and made history in the process. Master of None’s Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, Donald Glover became the first African American to win for comedy-series directing, and Sterling K. Brown became the first black actor since 1998 to win the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy, for his role as Randall Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us.
Waithe, whose autobiographical series The Chi was picked up by Showtime, won the award for her writing on Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode, in which her character finally comes out to her family.
During Waithe’s acceptance speech, she spoke about LGBTQIA issues and urged viewers to “go out there and conquer the world. It would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”
Decked out in an eggplant-colored tuxedo, Glover continued to make history as he took home the award for directing in a comedy series, for his “B.A.N.” episode of Atlanta, but he also won the comedy-lead-actor Emmy for his role on the series as well. During his speech, he joked about Donald Trump.
“I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most-oppressed list,” he said. “He’s probably the reason I’m up here.”
Outside of comedy, Brown, whose popular series This Is Us heads back to TV later in September, thanked his cast as he accepted his award.
“I wanna thank my cast. Milo, Mandy, Justin, Chrissy, you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had, better than the white folks who raised Webster,” Brown said before he was cut off by music.
“You can play, you can play. Nobody got that loud music. Our writers, I love you. You are our life’s blood. Our producers and directors, I love you,” Brown added.
Social media was furious that Brown didn’t get enough time to shine onstage:
What would have been a great speech on air was finished backstage as Brown thanked his family, writers and friends.
I wanted to thank our writers. A show doesn’t get seven acting nominations without some impeccable, beautiful, thoughtful writing. You guys are our life’s blood, so I want to thank you so much. To our producers and directors, in particular, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, and the crazy cool Ken Olin. I thank you for your guidance and friendship. And I wanted to thank Dan Fogelman—he is the Hebrew hammer with which our house was built. He makes me laugh and cry in equal parts and keeps me coming back for more, and in his own little small special way. He’s not trying to make America great again, he’s trying to make it the best that it’s ever been and I love him for taking me on this journey.
I wanted to thank my manager. You’ve been doing this for a long time and it feels like we’re just getting started. I can’t wait to see what’s next. And to my wife—I didn’t get to thank my wife—you make my life worth living and you gave me two of the most beautiful things that God has ever put on this planet. Your daddy loves you with the strength of 1,000 suns. I’ll see you Monday after work. Thank you.
Although the Emmys were still quite white, black excellence still shined Sunday night.