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Kerry Washington & Cicely Tyson

*A celebration of African American achievements in television drew a who’s who of Black Hollywood Wednesday night as the stars reflected on the past, present and future of blacks on the small screen.

Those on hand for the Paley Center for Media-hosted event included Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Larry Wilmore, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lee Daniels, Kerry Washington, Michael Strahan and Phylicia Rashad, the Huffington Post reports.

Kicking off the tribute, Winfrey praised the evolution of African-Americans contributing to some of today’s most successful shows on television while recalling how the presence of people of color was an event.

“When I was growing up there were so few people of color on television, but when there was one of us we would end up missing it because we would be calling everybody else saying, ‘it’s coming on right now. Turn on ‘Ed Sullivan.’ It’s coming on,’” she said. “So part of the power of tonight’s event will be to appreciate and to honor our history as we continue to be an interval part of the entertainment industry.”

In addition to African American achievements on TV, the tribute celebrated the 35th anniversary of the launch of BET as the legendary career of Tyson, who provided a touching moment when she spoke about receiving negative feedback for playing secretary Jane Foster on the CBS drama series “East Side/West Side” in 1963.

The backlash stemmed from Tyson, 81, wearing a natural hairstyle for her breakthrough role, a first for a black actress as it resulted in a nationwide hair movement

“This has been a wonderful evening and an emotional evening for me watching the positive strides we’ve taken over the years. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there,” Tyson declared. “I have been especially moved by the moments that were a flashback for me… when I first appeared on the air with a natural and received barrels of negative letters that had to do with the fact that I was disgracing the role of the image of black women when I was in a position to glorify it.”

“Well, finally at last I am ecstatic to say that we as a race of people have come to recognize and accept the fact that our pride and glory is our hair… that doesn’t mean you can’t wear your hair the way you want to,” she continued.