Sheryl Lee Ralph has scored the first Emmy Award of her career. During the 74th Primetime Emmys on Monday night (Sept. 12), the veteran actress graced the stage wearing a Brandon Blackwood gown and accepted the trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role as Barbara Howard in Abbott Elementary.
Ralph began her speech by singing Dianne Reeves’ 1994 jazz song “Endangered Species.”
“I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim’s song,” she belted out as the audience cheered in celebration. “I am a woman, I am an artist. And I know where my voice belongs.”
She continued her speech by thanking Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson and encouraging all to remain dedicated to their passions.
“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like. This is what striving looks like. And don’t you ever, ever give up on you. Because if you get a Quinta Brunson in your corner, 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…”
With her win, Ralph becomes only the second-ever Black woman to win this award, following Jackée Harry, who won for her role in the NBC sitcom 227 in 1987.
Harry dug deeper into the significance of Ralph’s win in a congratulatory Twitter thread.
“Winning my Emmy was a career highlight, but it was also a lonely experience. For 35 years I’ve been the only black woman to win Outstanding Supporting Actresses in a Comedy Series. But that all changes tonight… and it’s come full circle!” she wrote.
“The network originally wanted @thesherylralph to play Sandra on 227, but I got the part and won an Emmy for it. Now, Sheryl joins me as the 2nd black woman in this category and deservedly so!”
The Twitter thread closed out with “Congrats, Sheryl & welcome to the club!”
After receiving a standing ovation, Ralph expressed her gratitude backstage during the Emmy Awards’ Winnerview with Marc Istook.
“It’s one thing to do your job. It’s a whole ‘nother thing for the people in your industry to say to you that you are the best at what it is you do, especially in a time where there is so much good tv out there.”
In total, Abbott Elementary‘s inaugural season was nominated for seven awards at this year’s Emmys. Along with Ralph’s win, the show earned three total awards, including the categories of Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series, and Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series.
Abbott Elementary returns on Wednesday, Sept. 21st at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the official trailer for season two of the acclaimed comedy series below.