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4 Black Actors Took Home Tony Awards Tonight - Only The Second Time In History

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 10, 2013 at 12:08AM

It was indeed a good night for black actors at the 2013 Tony Awards event, broadcast on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting once again, as a total of 5 black artists took how trophies tonight, which I believe may actually be a record. I'll return to this in a minute.
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Cicely Tyson

It was indeed a good night for black actors at the 2013 Tony Awards event, broadcast on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting once again, as a total of 5 black artists took how trophies tonight, which I believe may actually be a record. I'll return to this in a minute.

First, what I can confirm with certainty is that tonight's 4 wins by black actors happens to be the 2nd time in the Award's 66-year history that 4 black actors have taken home trophies in the same year - 2013 and 1982.

2013's winners were:

Cicely Tyson, for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (A Trip To Bountiful).

Billy Porter, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kinky Boots).

Patina Miller, for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Pippin).

Courtney B. Vance, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Lucky Guy).

Tonight's 5th black winner was not an actor, but a producer - Ron Simons (also a producer of several films we've covered on this site). A play that he is one of the producers of - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - won the Tony Award for Best Play. This is Ron's second Tony nomination and win. Last year he received a Tony for producing Porgy & Bess.

And finally, 1982's winners were:

Ben Harney, Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical for Dreamgirls.

Jennifer Holliday, Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical also for Dreamgirls.

Cleavant Derricks, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical also for Dreamgirls.

Zakes Mokae, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Master Harold...and the Boys.

A little history there...

Regarding tonight's 4 major wins by black actors, I should also note that Cicely Tyson, who returned to Broadway this season for the first time in 30 years, won her very first Tony Award. It's also the first time she's been nominated - so she's one-for-one. 

The same goes for Billy Porter - first time nominee, and win.

Tonight was Courtney B. Vance's first win, although he's been nominated twice before. Prior to 2013, he was nominated in 1991 for Six Degrees of Separation (Best Performance by an Actor in a Play), and in 1987 for Fences (Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play).

Patina Miller has been nominated twice, and tonight's win was her first. Previously, she was nominated in 2011 for her work in Sister Act, in the same category in which she was nominated for this year - Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical.

The other nominees of African descent this year, who didn't win in their individual categories are:

Shalita Grantnominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike).

Condola Rashad, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (The Trip to Bountiful).

Charl Brown, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Motown, The Musical).

- Valisia LeKae, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Motown The Musical).

- Keala Settlenominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Hands on a Hardbody).

George C. Wolfenominated for Best Direction of a Play (Lucky Guy).

So the "4 wins" record remains intact. I actually thought Condola Rashad might win in her category (she seems to be something of a Broadway darling right now), and make it 5 actor wins this year, which would've been history-making. 

Alas, I'll take the 4. And I'm sure they will too.

Now let me go research whether tonight's 5 total wins (including Ron Simon's Best Producer nod) is indeed a record. The challenge here is in sifting through all the technical awards - those that just don't get the same kind of pomp and circumstance that the so-called *major* awards do. And also, one show can have a dozen (or even more) producers. So the challenge there would be identifying those who are of African descent, which can be a monumental task, especially if one has to go through 66 years of history.

Also worth noting, which only makes the challenge more of one, is that black producers don't necessarily produce only *black shows.* For example, Ron Simons is just one of almost 2-dozen producers of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (according to the Tony Awards website), and it's not a *black show,* as in, a show that tells a story that centers primarily around a character of African descent, to keep it simple.

So one would literally have to sift through every single producer of every single show (not just *black shows*) that won in the Best Play, Best Musical, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Revival of a Musical (at least) categories, each year, over the last 66 Tony Awards ceremonies.

In the meantime, congrats to all the winners, as well as the nominees who didn't win! 

See you next year!


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