Before I delve into the specific category let's look at the history of African American/black nominees, and their appalling lack of acting nominees at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
I will be using charts from wikipedia, and cross check their validation with emmy.org
Listed below is the list of acting nominees comedy, drama, and mini-series or movie:
Only 4 women have been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, they are split 4 different shows, and no black female has been nominated in this category since 1986 (Phylicia Rashad). Isabel Sanford is the only person who won in this category. The total number of nominations is 12.
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series|
|1969||Diahann Carroll||Julia||Nominated||First black actress nominated in this category.|
|1979||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1980||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1981||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Won||First black actress to win this category.|
|1982||Nell Carter||Gimme a Break||Nominated|
|1982||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1983||Nell Carter||Gimme a Break||Nominated|
|1983||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1984||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1985||Isabel Sanford||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1985||Phylicia Rashad||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|1986||Phylicia Rashad||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series|
|1970||Bill Cosby||The Bill Cosby Show||Nominated||First black actor to be nominated in this category|
|1970||Lloyd Haynes||Room 222||Nominated||First black actor to be nominated in this category|
|1972||Redd Foxx||Sanford and Son||Nominated|
|1973||Redd Foxx||Sanford and Son||Nominated|
|1974||Redd Foxx||Sanford and Son||Nominated|
|1985||Robert Guillaume||Benson||Won||First black actor to win in this category|
|1988||Tim Reid||Frank's Place||Nominated|
|2002||Bernie Mac||The Bernie Mac Show||Nominated|
|2003||Bernie Mac||The Bernie Mac Show||Nominated|
|2012||Don Cheadle||House of Lies||Nominated|
|2013||Don Cheadle||House of Lies||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series|
|1979||Robert Guillaume||Soap||Won||First African-American nominated in this category.|
First to win in this category.
|1982||Ron Glass||Barney Miller||Nominated|
|1983||Eddie Murphy||Saturday Night Live||Nominated|
|1986||Malcolm Jamal-Warner||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|1989||Meshach Taylor||Designing Women||Nominated|
|2009||Tracy Morgan||30 Rock||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series|
|1981||Marla Gibbs||The Jeffersons||Nominated||First black actress to be nominated in this category.|
|1982||Marla Gibbs||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1983||Marla Gibbs||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1984||Marla Gibbs||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1984||Paula Kelly||Night Court||Nominated|
|1985||Marla Gibbs||The Jeffersons||Nominated|
|1986||Lisa Bonet||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|1986||Keshia Knight Pulliam||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|1987||Jackee Harry||227||Won||First black actress to win in this category.|
|2006||Alfre Woodard||Desperate Housewives||Nominated|
|2007||Vanessa Williams||Ugly Betty||Nominated|
|2008||Vanessa Williams||Ugly Betty||Nominated|
|2009||Vanessa Williams||Ugly Betty||Nominated|
In the world of Outstanding Lead actor in a Drama series there has been more success, mildly. This category has had three different winners, Bill Cosby won this award three times for I Spy, James Earl Jones won once for Gabriel's Fire, and Andre Braugher won once for Homicide: Life on the Streets. As of the late 90s until the present Braugher is the most consistent black actor nominated for the Emmy Awards.
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series|
|1966||Bill Cosby||I Spy||Won||First African-American (male or female) to win a Primetime Emmy.|
First African-American actor to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy.
First African-American actor to win a Primetime Emmy.
First black actor to be nominated in this category.
First actor to win in this category.
|1967||Bill Cosby||I Spy||Won|
|1968||Bill Cosby||I Spy||Won|
|1981||Louis Gossett, Jr.||Palmerstown, U.S.A.||Nominated|
|1991||James Earl Jones||Gabriel's Fire||Won||Second African-American to win this category.|
|1996||Andre Braugher||Homicide: Life on the Street||Nominated|
|1998||Andre Braugher||Homicide: Life on the Street||Won||Third African-American to win this category.|
|2001||Andre Braugher||Gideon's Crossing||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series|
|1982||Debbie Allen||Fame||Nominated||First black actress nominated in this category.|
|1986||Alfre Woodard||St. Elsewhere||Nominated|
|1992||Regina Taylor||I'll Fly Away||Nominated|
|1993||Regina Taylor||I'll Fly Away||Nominated|
|1995||Cicely Tyson||Sweet Justice||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series|
|1969||Greg Morris||Mission: Impossible||Nominated||Category was known as Best Continued Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series.|
First African-American nominated in this category.
|1970||Greg Morris||Mission: Impossible||Nominated||Category was known as Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama.|
|1972||Greg Morris||Mission: Impossible||Nominated||Category was known as Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama.|
|1982||Taurean Blacque||Hill Street Blues||Nominated|
|1995||James Earl Jones||Under One Roof||Nominated|
|1995||Eriq La Salle||ER||Nominated|
|1996||James McDaniel||NYPD Blue||Nominated|
|1997||Eriq La Salle||ER||Nominated|
|1998||Eriq La Salle||ER||Nominated|
|1999||Steve Harris||The Practice||Nominated|
|2000||Steve Harris||The Practice||Nominated|
|2002||Dulé Hill||The West Wing||Nominated|
|2010||Andre Braugher||Men of a Certain Age||Nominated|
|2011||Andre Braugher||Men of a Certain Age||Nominated|
|2012||Giancarlo Esposito||Breaking Bad||Nominated|
8 different women have been nominated in Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, but this is the only category where people have nominated for more than one role, CCH Pounder for ER and The Shield, and Madge Sinclair for Trapper John M.D. and Gabriel's Fire. This category also has the most winners with four. Chandra Wilson was the most consistent recent nominee; she did win at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, but never won the Emmy Award.
Looking at the track record for the Emmy Awards it is appalling to see the, or not see more African American or black performers nominated. The nominees should obviously be merit based, but this speaks to lack of quality material for all people of color on television, and I think this should be a wake up call for television that this is a problem, and should not be accepted.
This year Kerry Washington and Don Cheedle are both nominated for Emmy Awards, and honestly both have a shot. Cheedle won the Golden Globe, and in a weak category with actor's tapes he could easily sneak in for the win as a big name celebrity. Cheedle has stiff competition from Jim Parson, Alec Baldwin, and Louis C.K.. At the moment Kerry Washington is a close second behind Homeland's Claire Danes. Based on the tapes actor's submit Danes is the favorite, but Washington submitted a solid tape, and could pull off a mini-upset. Both are great in their shows, and could win. With that said television needs to be aware of the material out there for actors of color and realize there is not enough, and television could be doing more.