Viola Davis Becomes the First Black Woman to Win for Lead Actress in a Drama at Emmys 2015: Watch the Moving Speech Now!


Viola Davis made history at the Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, when she won the Best Actress in a Drama Award at the 2015 Emmy Awards for her role as the tough, damaged lawyer and law school professor Annalise Keating on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder. Her victory marked the first time that a black woman has won in that cateogry.

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Viola Davis accepts an award onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Lester Cohen/WireImage

Wearing a Carmen Marc Valvo gown, the two-time Oscar nominee, 50, took the opportunity to make a statement about racial inequality in Hollywood and to thank the people who helped get her into a leading role. 

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Viola Davis is shocked to win Best Actress in a Drama at the 2015 Emmys on Sept. 20.

After reciting (from memory!) Harriet Tubman‘s moving quote about trying to cross the line of the racial divide, Davis said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is simply opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people — people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.”

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Taraji P. Henson claps for Viola Davis at the 2015 Emmys on Sept. 20.

Thanking many executives, including her How to Get Away With Murder producer Shonda Rhimes, Davis also praised a series of black female actresses, some of them in the audience inside the Microsoft Theater that night.

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Kerry Washington cries during Viola Davis’ acceptance speech at the 2015 Emmys on Sept. 20.

“And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union, thank you for taking us over that line,” she said as the camera cut to the tearful Scandal star and Empire‘s proud leading lady, who didn’t stop clapping for one second. 

Davis’ speech earned her a standing ovation — and tears — from the A-list crowd. Watch the emotional moment now!

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