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74th Primetime Emmys - Show

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As just the second Black actress to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress, Sheryl Lee Ralph stunned the audience by singing a verse from “Endangered Species,” by jazz singer Diane Reeves. 

“I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim song,” Ralph crooned, holding out several words for emphasis as names of those she wished to thank flashed across the screen. “I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.”

Ralph’s beautiful voice drew tears from many members of the audience who rose to their feet in a standing ovation after the performance. 

Sheryl Lee Ralph began her career on Broadway where she won a Tony Award for her role in 1981’s Dreamgirls. She became the second Black woman to win an Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy Award after Jackée Harry, who won in 1987 for her role on 227, according to People.  

After her performance, Ralph gave a brief speech as her other ‘thank you’s’ scrolled across the screen. 

“To anyone who has ever ever had a dream and thought your dream wouldn’t couldn’t come true I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like,” the 65-year-old actress said. “This is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”

Ralph continued, “Because if you get a Quinta Brunson, if you get a husband like mine in your corner. If you get children like mine in your corner, and if you’ve got friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Abbott Elementary also scored another historic first as show creator Quinta Brunson won for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for the show’s pilot.