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Tony Awards history: Black winners from pioneer Juanita Hall to record-breaker Audra McDonald

Tony Awards history: Black winners from pioneer Juanita Hall to record-breaker Audra McDonald

By Susan King

Audra McDonald is the most lauded Broadway performer winning a whopping six Tony Awards in both musical and dramatic categories. And she may be receiving her seventh for the revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair du Lune” when the 74th annual Tonys take place Sept. 26th at the venerable Winter Garden Theatre.

Despite that record, it took a long time for Black artists to be acknowledged by the Tonys, which were first handed out in 1947. It wasn’t until 2004 that a Black actress won for a lead performance in a play: Phylicia Rashad broke this barrier with her win for a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry was the first Black artist to be nominated for Best Play in 1960 for the original production of “A Raisin in the Sun” as were its director Lloyd Richards and stars, Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil.

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