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Tony Award Countdown: 30 Years In 30 Days, A RAISIN IN THE SUN's Phylicia Rashad Is First Black Woman To Win Best Actress In A Play, 2004

Welcome to BroadwayWorld's Tony Award Countdown: 30 Years In 30 Days, a look at some of the Tony Awards' most memorable moments from the past three decades.

When Claudia McNeil was nominated for 1960's Best Leading Actress in a Play Tony Award for her performance as Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry's A RAISIN IN THE SUN, it was the first time ever a black woman had been nominated in that category.

McNeil didn't take the prize that year, nor did she three years later when she was nominated as Best Actress for TIGER, TIGER BURNING BRIGHT. She was followed by other notable women of color who were nominees in the category: Leslie Uggams, Bea Richards, Diana Sands, Anna Deavere Smith and Mary Alice.

It wasn't until 2004 when first-time Tony nominee Phylicia Rashad became the first black woman honored as the season's Best Actress in a Play, appropriately for playing Lena Younger in A RAISIN IN THE SUN.

Rashad has been appearing regularly on New York stages ever since, taking on the challenges of new works (August Wilson's GEM OF THE OCEAN), Shakespeare (CYMBELINE), musical drama (Michael John LaChiusa's BERNARDA ALBA) and classic American Drama (CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF). Most recently she received the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Play for her exemplary work in Tarell Alvin McCraney's HEAD OF PASSES.

The American Theatre Wing's 70th Annual Tony Awards, hosted by Tony Award winner James Corden, will air on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 12, 2016 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT) live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City.


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From This Author Michael Dale