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Viola Davis Becomes First Black Actor to Win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony

Viola Davis won the best supporting actress Oscar Sunday night for her performance in Denzel Washington’s “Fences.”

“You know there’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered, and that’s the graveyard,” Davis began her acceptance speech with fervor. “People ask me all the time — What kind of stories do you want to tell? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories.”

She continued, “I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

The actress then began a long list of thanks with August Wilson, (“… who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people”) and Washington (“O captain, my captain… Thank you for putting two entities in the driver’s seat — August and God. They served you well.”).

Voice cracking with emotion, Davis thanked her parents, sister, husband and daughter.

With the award, she became the first black actor to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award. While Whoopi Goldberg also has an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy to her name, her prize on Broadway was won for producing the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Davis’ win was perhaps the evening’s safest bet, as Davis had dominated the precursor circuit, winning 20-plus critical honors, the Screen Actors Guild prize, the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice award and the British Academy award as well.

After a surprising loss for her performance in “The Help” five years ago, a narrative of Davis being due had no doubt coalesced. But Davis’s performance was powerful and deserving regardless. After all, she already won a Tony Award for the same role, albeit in the lead category. She in fact becomes the second person in history to win a Tony and an Oscar for the same role but in different categories. The first was “The King and I” star Yul Brynner.

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