People of Color Illuminate the Emmys, Making History in the Process

Just a year ago, awards shows like the Oscars and Emmys were met with criticism for their lack of diversity.

This awards season, however, the Emmys looked to change their bias perception by nominating an unprecedented number of people of color, and made history by handing a trophy to a person of color for the first time in two categories.

The Emmys had one of the most diverse groups of nominees in recent memory. The show nominated, Tracee Ellis Ross and co-star Anthony Anderson for their roles as Rainbow and Dre in Blackish. Notably, Leslie Jones, B.D. Wong, Laverne Cox, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba as well as many others were nominated.

The awards also nodded many shows featuring people of color such as Atlanta, United Shades of America and Master of None.

As Issa Rae said, "we [were] rooting for everyone black."

Sterling K. Brown won best actor for a drama series, for his role as Randall in the NBC series, This is Us, becoming the first African American to win the award for best acting in a drama series since 1998. The documentary, 13th, won for best non-fiction writing, and United Shades of America with Kamau Bell won for best unstructured reality program.

Though all exciting, the biggest winners of the night were Donald Glover and Lena Waithe who were the first African Americans to win in best directing for a comedy series, and best writing for a comedy series, respectively.

Donald Glover, also known by his rapper stage name, Childish Gambino, is the writer, director, and lead actor in the FX comedy series, Atlanta. He was the first African American to win an Emmy for comedy directing.

The show, which debuted last year, follows the life of Ernest (played by Glover), a college dropout who is trying to make into the Atlanta rap scene by managing his cousin, who goes by the name of “paperboi.” The show is not only hilarious, but it is also very thought-provoking and tackles many issues having to do with race as well as just the everyday life of the average black person.

The other big winner of the night was Lena Waithe, who became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for best comedy writing for co-writing the episode "Thanksgiving" on Master of None, which stars her and Aziz Ansari (another person of color). The episode covered Waithe's characters experiences growing up black and queer. Upon winning the award, Waithe gave a heartwarming speech.

"The things that make us different, those are our superpowers — every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it," Waithe said, in her speech.  

 Lena Waithe accepts her Emmy for best writing in the comedy series, with co-writer Aziz Ansari, in winning she became the first African American female to win in the category.  Photo obtained from Rolling Stone website.

Lena Waithe accepts her Emmy for best writing in the comedy series, with co-writer Aziz Ansari, in winning she became the first African American female to win in the category.

Photo obtained from Rolling Stone website.

 Showing he can do it all, Donald Glover won two Emmys, one for best comedy actor and one for best comedy director, both for his show Atlanta.  Photo obtained from Grist website

Showing he can do it all, Donald Glover won two Emmys, one for best comedy actor and one for best comedy director, both for his show Atlanta.

Photo obtained from Grist website

This was a huge night for people of color, not only because of the wins but because they were able to win by telling the stories of people of color with similar backgrounds to them. It shows a change in the film and TV industry that is starting to embrace the talent and the stories of people of color.

From shows like Blackish, showcasing an upper-middle class family, to shows like Atlanta,  which is a about a working class black man, stories about black characters are starting to be cherished and appreciated by "mainstream" (read white) culture. The Emmys recognizing some of the up and coming talent that people of color have is a step in the right direction.

Of course, we can't wait till next awards season to hopefully see more people of color, rightfully, take home that golden trophy.