Tonys: Four Black Actors Win Best Musical Performances for First Time

African American Tony Award Actor Actress
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Take that, Oscars.

As the Academy is just recovering from its #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, stemming from its all-white acting nominees, the Tony Awards set a new benchmark in diversity, thanks in large part to big winner “Hamilton.” The show saw all four musical acting awards (lead actor, lead actress, featured actor and featured actress) go to black actors for the first time of the ceremony’s history.

Three of those awards went to Broadway hit “Hamilton,” which has been heralded specifically for its diverse cast: Leslie Odom, Jr. (lead actor), Daveed Diggs (featured actor) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (featured actress) took home the prizes. “The Color Purple” broke “Hamilton’s” streak by winning Cynthia Erivo lead actress, but the fact remains: the 70th edition of Broadway’s biggest night made history.


Tony Awards

Tony Awards Winners: Complete List

And it’s not just the winners, either. Many of the rest of the nominees in the aforementioned categories were diverse as well, including the featured actor slate, which included Christopher Jackson of “Hamilton” and Brandon Victor Dixon of “Shuffle Along.”

Backstage, after the show, “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller praised the show’s star and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, for the “notion of making ‘Hamilton’ look like America today,” commenting on its diversity in a production set decades ago. (Miranda was a big winner himself, winning best book for a musical and best original score.)

Diggs said he was pleased that the diversity on stage is encouraging children of all ages to get involved with theater. “There is so much diversity on Broadway right now,” he said backstage. “It’s nice to have it feeling a little more mainstream and a lot more inclusive.”

Goldsberry commented on the diversity of the winners backstage as well. “I do create artificial barriers for myself but I never, never, never see that the fact that I may not look like someone makes me unfit to play them,” she told reporters after the show.

Brent Lang contributed to this report.

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  1. mary says:

    Disgraceful, once again a black only , but White’s got criticized if we have a white only contest, or anything eles. They have reverse discrimination and it’s ok. Let’s not forget about IRISH SALAVERY, that we’ll probably be played by blacks!

  2. Jon Jon says:

    No need to point out the OBVIOUS………….. Once again ad nauseam, another part of America totally co-opted and down the drain…………………….

  3. cadavra says:

    Broadway has always had the welcome mat out. In the 1950s, when the movies and broadcast pledged fealty to the Blacklist, many of those talents continued to find work onstage. And today, “old” stars like Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Frank Langella, Cicely Tyson, Tyne Daly, Chita Rivera, ad infinitum, who’ve found that Hollywood no longer wants them, are delighted to trod the boards eight times a week for audiences that continue to revere them.

  4. Elena Thompson says:

    Same night Russel Joel Brown made his debut as Mufasa! and the journey continues. Blessings and joy for all awardees.

  5. gunads says:

    Uu mean the White-Free Play where White actors are not allowed to audition even though Hamilton and his friends were all White? Congratulations, you’ve made racism mainstream, good for you.

    What’s next?
    MLK with a White cast?
    Pocahontas as a blonde?
    Maybe Snow White with a Black woman? Call it Snow Black, right?

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, what a joke. I hated In The Heights, but Hamilton is truly disgusting and not for the race thing, but for the music. Hamilton singing hip hop? Really? Yeah, let’s make a musical of Ella Fitzgerald with her singing death metal or country, I’m sure her community is gonna like that.

    Go to hell, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    • Peggy says:

      White people get ALL THE F*CKING ROLES and black and brown people get 1 SHOW and you get mad. Stupid Ass.

      • Jeanne Maynard says:

        gunads you are conveniently forgetting all of the roles played by white actors portraying people of color. From Native Americans in westerns to Cleopatra to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Those portrayals were (and still are) part of the landscape. Shame on you for deriding inclusion. And shame on you more for deriding artistic license. We would not be who we are today if not for jazz and r&b and country and folk and bluegrass. All of which were not considered “music” by some other self-appointed critics. It always slays me when Americans condemn American ideals. This land was founded on inclusion, not exclusion. Some folks would do well to remember that. Congratulations to all the winners and thanks for your art that transforms us to a better place and to higher modes of thinking.

  6. This news item has just the right amount of anti-white sentiment. Each of the actors who took home top honors Sunday night should be applauded, but let’s remember that it would have been equally awesome and cool had all four winners been white people. But I have a feeling if that had happened we would be reading a different type of news item this morning.

    • gunads says:

      It would have been cool if Hip Hop was left in the ghetto where it belongs. Musicals are for MUSIC, Evita, Annie, Cabaret, Les Miserables, those are MUSICALS with actual MUSIC and actual songs. Hamilton is stupid hip hop! I HATE hip hop. I can tolerate Vanilla Ice with his Ice Ice Baby, but I prefer actual SONGS.

      • Sally says:

        You are so wrong, mentally there is something wrong with You. Save your money and go do something pleasing to you. This was a huge event for a race of people that has been suppressed and slaundered for way too long. Keep your nasty comments to yourself! You are an ugly person OBVIOUSLY inside and out. How dare you down play such a huge event!

    • Rianna Hughes says:

      I believe the point the article is making is that it’s the first time it has happened. I don’t think it’s anti-white sentiment. The Tony Awards has always been more divirse than The Oscar’s, which I think was the comparison.

  7. Aaron says:

    Yes this is great, but they are all actors. All have great talent. Why say black or white at all?? Wonderful performances that inspired. Actors act.

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