Transcript for Viola Davis' Powerful Speech After Historic Emmy Win
Finally tonight, how do you measure success? How high you rise? How far you had to travel? By any measure viola Davis is a successful actress. Last night she picked up hardware to prove it making history along the way. Viola Davis. "How to get away with murder." Reporter: An historic win. Viola Davis becoming the first african-american woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. Reporter: Her impassioned speech moving audience members to tears. Quoting hair ret tubman. I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers. And beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line. It means a lot. It means my work counts for something. It means that 27 years professionally that I've put into this business means something. Reporter: Born in south Carolina, Davis grew up in extreme poverty. A juilliard graduate, her on-screen breakthrough came in the 2008 film "Doubt," acting alongside Meryl Streep. You can't hold a child responsible for what god gave them to be. Reporter: Her role at a housekeeper in "The help" earned her an academy award nomination for best actress. You is kind, you is smart, you is important. Reporter: But it wasn't the type of role she aspired to play. For women of color, this is basically it. I do not sit with 10, 15 scripts in front of me, all lead roles, and I say evenny meany mineny mow. That's not been my option. So guess what? Guess what? You go to jail. Reporter: Now Davis is paving the way on the small screen in ABC's "How to get away with murder." She plays a fierce, sexy defense attorney. The question I'm asked most often as a defense attorney is whether I can tell if my clapts a clients are innocent or guilty. My answer is always the same. I don't care. Reporter: Viola admitting there's still progress to be made. I am aware that my presence is probably unusual in Hollywood. I'm aware of just so many actors of color out there because they come to me all the time and they feel like they're on the periphery. Reporter: Not at the emmys. Not any longer. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the television academy. Thank you. Good for her. Heather: Remembering baby Bella.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.