Awards shows like the Oscars and Emmys are often about glamor, fun and humorous speeches. But when actress Viola Davis made history this past Sunday night, everyone was on the edge of their seats listening intently to a moving speech about her struggles and ultimate success in the business.
With tears in her eyes, the How to Get Away With Murder actress gave a stirring speech as the first black woman to ever receive an award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. On her way to the stage she made sure to stop off and warmly embrace Taraji P. Henson, fellow black actress from the show Empire who was up for the same award. It was obvious that they were both thrilled that at least one of them would make history that night.
She began her speech by sharing the moving words of Harriet Tubman, “In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line.”
Davis went on to say, “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.” She then goes on to thank the many writers and directors that have believed in her and offered her the opportunity to work in show business. She thanks people like her show’s creator Peter Nowalk and producer Shonda Rhimes for redefining “what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.”
Hollywood and television have come a long way when it comes to offering more opportunities and diverse roles for women of color and will hopefully continue to grow in this way. Davis makes sure to note her fellow actresses that are helping to break through racial barriers in television when she says, “And to the Taraji P Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line.”
What do you think of Viola Davis’ Emmy speech?
Do you think there is a lot more opportunity for black women in television now than there was in years past?