The 2016 Tony Awards Make History With All Musical Acting Awards Going To Black Performers
While Hamilton didn't wind up breaking records and bringing home the most Tony Awards in history (that honor still belongs to The Producers, with 12 to Hamilton's 11), there was still a big milestone reached at the 2016 ceremony. Performers Leslie Odom, Jr., Cynthia Ervio, Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldberry all took home Tony Awards for their performances in musicals, making it the first time all four musical performance Tony winners were black performers. Though there have been two other years where four black nominees took home statues, they were split between the musical and play categories. This marks the first time a complete sweep of the musical performance categories was made by all people of color.
In 2013, Patina Miller and Billy Porter won for their lead performances in musicals (Pippin and Kinky Boots) while Cicely Tyson and Courtney B. Vance won for their roles in plays (A Trip to Bountiful and Lucky Guy). And in 1982, Jennifer Holliday, Ben Harney, and Cleavant Derricks all won for their performances in Dreamgirls, while Zakes Moake won for his role in Master Harold... And the Boys. Other actors of color have won Tony Awards, but never before have POC completely swept a category like in 2016.
One of the best things about the 2016 Tony Awards race was that with the popularity of shows that feature many people of color, from Hamilton to The Color Purple to Shuffle Along to Get On Your Feet, there were tons of other nominees who could have taken home the prize, keeping the year a historic one. And there were plenty of actors nominated for their work in plays — like Lupita Nyong'o and Sophie Okenedo — as well as people of color nominated for their work behind the scenes, like often-nominated director George C. Wolfe.
And while Hamilton might not have made history on its own, it's a big part of this huge step for actors of color on Broadway.