At this year’s Emmy Awards, many of us watched in awe as Diahann Carroll, the first African-American Emmy nominee for Naked City in 1963, walked hand-in-hand with Hollywood “it” girl Kerry Washington.
As the two powerhouse actresses took to the stage to present the award for Best Supporting Actor in a drama, for many viewers, this moment was one for the books.
You see, in 1969, Carroll received a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role in the hit television series Julia. The NBC sitcom was the first to cast an African American woman as the lead in a non-stereotypical role.
Having the legendary actress alongside the Scandal star had huge significance, as Washington was the first African-American (male or female) in nearly 40 years to earn a nomination as a lead in a series.
So when Kerry lost to Homeland star Claire Danes, many people took to the blogosphere and mainstream media to air their grievances. Some celebs, including Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, spoke out. In an interview, Pompeo stated:
“I didn’t see any diversity in the Emmys at all. The Emmys felt so dated to me.”
The problem of the lack of diversity in Hollywood is no surprise. In fact, many of our favorite black actresses are often ignored by mainstream media and forced to fight for limited roles available for women of color. On an Oprah’s Next Chapter special on black actresses in Hollywood, Viola Davis said “we are in crisis mode as black actresses.”
While some of our favorite black actresses have made us laugh and cry (or shout and rejoice – think Waiting to Exhale) many argue that this exceptionally talented pool of women have not been given the props that they truly deserve. Quite frankly, we agree. It is time to diversify Hollywood and give more of these ladies the opportunity to shine.
Check out our gallery below of Hollywood’s most talented, yet underrated, African-American actresses.