Emmy history in the making: Ava DuVernay (’13th’) would be first black woman to win for directing

Ava DuVernay earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature for “13th,” and now she’s up for an Emmy for that film — several, actually. Among its eight nominations are bids for DuVernay as a writer, director, and producer. And she actually has the potential to make history is she claims the directing prize: she would be the first black woman ever to win an Emmy for directing.

“13th” streams on Netflix and traces the history of mass incarceration in the United States back to the 19th century, when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution ostensibly outlawed slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” That abolished the formal institution of slavery as it had existed for centuries, but opened the door for a carceral system that disproportionately targets black Americans.

DuVernay and Ezra Edelman (“O.J.: Made in America”) are the first black nominees of any gender for Best Nonfiction Directing, but while a few black men including Paris Barclay (“NYPD Blue”) and Charles S. Dutton (“The Corner”) have gone home with the gold, no black women have yet. DuVernay follows Debbie Allen (Variety Directing, “The Debbie Allen Special,” 1989), Millicent Shelton (Comedy Directing, “30 Rock,” 2009), Dee Rees (Movie/Mini Directing, “Bessie,” 2015), and Beyonce (Variety Special Directing, “Lemonade,” 2016) on the relatively short list of black female directors who have contended in the past.

In addition to recent Oscar champ Edelman, DuVernay is nominated in the directing contest alongside Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens (“Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds”) and a pair of filmmakers for “Planet Earth II”: Fredi Devas (episode “Cities”) and Elizabeth White (episode “Islands”).

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