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Quinta Brunson becomes 1st Black woman to win this Emmy in 41 years

"Abbott Elementary" actress Quinta Brunson reached a milestone for herself and in Emmy Awards history.
Quinta Brunson becomes 1st Black woman to win this Emmy in 41 years
Posted at 3:02 PM, Jan 16, 2024

Quinta Brunson will be remembered for more in Emmy Awards history than just taking home a prize at the 75th ceremony.

The creator and star of "Abbott Elementary" won the Primetime Emmy Monday night for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for playing an optimistic second-grade teacher in the series. It was Brunson's second Emmy overall but first for acting after winning last year for outstanding writing for a comedy series, also for "Abbott Elementary."

While her win this year was a feat for herself as an actress, it was also a milestone in Emmy Awards history, as Brunson became the first Black actress to win the category in more than 40 years and only the second to ever take it home.

Before Brunson, Isabel Sanford was the first and only Black woman to win the lead comedy actress award. She took home the golden statue in 1981 for her role as Louise Jefferson in CBS' "The Jeffersons," which ran from 1975 to 1985. 

At the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards last year, Brunson broke a record when she became the first Black woman to be nominated three times in the comedy category, snagging nominations for outstanding comedy series, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series and outstanding writing for a comedy series, which she won, for "Abbott Elementary."

"I am so happy to be able to live my dream and act out comedy, and I say it every time, but I just love comedy so much," Brunson said through tears Monday after accepting her acting award from comedy legend, Carol Burnett. "I'm so happy. I love my cast. I love 'Abbott Elementary.' Thank you so much."

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Brunson got her start posting comedy videos to her own social media and while working for BuzzFeed Video in the mid-2010s. She left the company in 2018 and starred in two shows that did not get picked up. 

She then appeared in multiple series — including "iZombie" and "A Black Lady Sketch Show" — before ABC picked up "Abbott Elementary" in May 2021. 

The mockumentary series centers on the teachers at a fictional, predominantly Black school in Philadelphia. In its second year, Brunson won a Peabody Award as its creator and was placed on Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2022 list.

Ahead of the show Monday, Brunson became emotional when she was surrounded by her "heroes," actresses Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold, on the carpet.

"There was a time when we were the only African American young ladies or little girls on television at one point, and so representation really does matter," Campbell told The Associated Press while standing beside Brunson and Arnold. "To see that people are now, that look like us, being nominated and winning and creating and creating behind-the-scenes, it really means a lot to so many people out there."

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