Commentary YR

The Groundbreakers: The Road To Mishael Morgan’s Daytime Emmy Win

The Young and the Restless’ Mishael Morgan made history last week when she became the first Black woman to win the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Daytime Series. Soap Hub congratulates the star and, in her honor, takes a look back at the groundbreakers who helped to make Morgan’s triumph possible.

Daytime Emmy: First Up

While it’s nearly impossible to get a definitive answer as to who was the first Black actress to have a major role on a soap opera, it is a fact that The Guiding Light (this was before the ‘The’ was dropped from the title) debuted a character named Martha Frazier.

She was played by future legend Cicely Tyson (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman) in 1966. Ruby Dee (A Raisin in the Sun) portrayed the role in 1967. Martha’s husband, Jim was played by pre-Star Wars rogue Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) in 1966, and Darth Vader voice James Earl Jones in 1967.

News Worthy Performance

The first Black actress to create a major stir in the mainstream press was Ellen Holly. In 1968, she debuted on One Life to Live as Carla Grey. For six months, the audience was led to believe that Carla was white.

Then, in a shocking twist, we met her mother, Sadie Grey (Lillian Heyman), and learned that Carla (AKA Clara) was actually only passing for white. The storyline lasted for less than half a year however, it’s one of OLTL’s most memorable.

Other Daytime Emmy Firsts

Debbi Morgan was the first Black actress to win a Daytime Emmy Award for acting. She won the gold for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1989 for her role as Dr. Angie Hubbard on All My Children. Morgan (quite the last name coincidence, no?) played Angie on and off from 1982 until the show was rebooted online in 2013. In 2009, Debbi Morgan became the first Black actress nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

In 1996, three out of the five actresses nominated at the Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series were black — Victoria Rowell (Dru, Y&R), Tonya Lee Williams (Olivia, Y&R), and the late Rosalind Cash (Mary Mae, General Hospital).

Laying Down The Law

There was also Edge of Night, which from 1981 to 1984 featured a strong and determined Black lawyer named Didi Bannister, played by Mariann Aalda, thus paving the way for Y&R’s now Daytime Emmy-winning strong and determined lawyer role, Amanda Sinclair.

In 1989, NBC launched Generations, which featured a black family, the Marshalls, with James Reynolds and Joan Pringle as, respectively, Henry and Ruth Marshall. Who were some of your favorite Black characters through the years? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Young and the Restless (YR) airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Genoa City, check out all the latest that’s been posted on Y&R spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.

For more about what’s happening on your favorite soaps, join the conversation over on our Facebook Page, check out our Twitter feed, or look for an update on our Instagram stories. See you over there!

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Published by
Alina Adams
Tags: Ellen Holly Mishael Morgan The Young and the Restless

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