The Greatest Black Achievers in History
First Black person in entertainment history to win an Emmy Award
Harry Belafonte was the first Black person in entertainment history to win an Emmy Award in 1960. Six years earlier, the actor, singer, and activist also became the first Black man to win a Tony Award. Belafonte also made a breakthrough in music outside of his acting career, introducing Trinidadian Caribbean music to a more mainstream audience.
Singer, actress & civil rights activist
Lena Horne was a singer, actress, civil rights activist, and one of the top Black performers of her time. She often refused roles that portrayed racial stereotypes to better Black representation in Hollywood. Horne appeared on Broadway in more than 300 performances of her show “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” among her many accomplishments during a 70-year career. In 1958, Horne became the first woman of Black ancestry to be nominated for a Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her role in the musical “Jamaica.”
Second Black man to win a Best Actor Academy Award
The second Black man to win a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in “Training Day” in 2001, Denzel Washington has made his mark in entertainment history and broke barriers with his powerful on-screen portrayals. He has been described as an actor who reconfigured “the concept of classic movie stardom” by film historian Donald Bogle. Some of his most notable films include “Glory,” “Remember the Titans,” “Philadelphia,” “Malcolm X,” “He Got Game,” and “Fences,” which he directed.
First Black actress to star in the prime-time TV
In 1968, Diahann Carroll made television history as the first Black actress to star in the prime-time TV series “Julia,” portraying a Black woman in a non-stereotypical way—as a character that was not the usual domestic worker. Popular shows like “Dynasty,” “The Hollywood Palace,” and “The Love Boat” all made Carroll a household name throughout the ’70s. In 1974, she received an Oscar Best Actress nomination for her work in “Claudine,” a film she appeared in with James Earl Jones.
Civil rights activist and broadway star
A civil rights activist and broadway star, Ossie Davis is well known for his Broadway performances and outspoken politics for the Black community. Davis hit his break playing a role in Broadway’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994. He is also well known for raising money in the ’60s for the Freedom Riders’ cause.
Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose is known for voicing Princess Tiana, Disney’s first Black animated princess in the film “The Princess and the Frog,” which came out in 2009, the same year Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, was inaugurated. It was coincidental but timely. Her film career includes the role of Lorrell Robinson in “Dreamgirls”; she won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for “Caroline, or Change”; and was nominated for a Tony Award for her appearance in a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”