The 51-year-old filmmaker and his foundation received the award in recognition of his work on inclusivity and philanthropic efforts.
As he accepted the award, he movingly reflected on his family history. He spoke about a quilt his grandmother had sewn for him when he first moved to Los Angeles, which represented key moments in his loved ones’ lives.
He said: “In my grandmother’s quilt there were no patches for Black people on television. And now her grandson is being honored by the Television Academy…
“We are all sewing our own quilt with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories.
“I stand here tonight to say thank you, to all of the people who are celebrating and know the value of every patch and every story and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business, this quilt that is our lives, this quilt that is America.”
The award was presented to Perry by Chris Rock and Oprah Winfrey, who hailed him a “visionary.”
Oprah said: “Tyler Perry has done what no one had done before him — make it as an outsider.”
Rock added: “And of course Hollywood welcomed an independent Black man with open arms. They thought he was just a fad.”
Winfrey continued: “Tyler ensured that Black people would be represented in front of and behind the camera.
“He is a man of deep faith, he is a visionary who is led by unwavering passion, and a businessman who bet on himself and in doing so, showed the world that there is a different path to ultimate success. He dreamed the impossible dream, he bore the unbearable sorrow and fought the unbeatable foe to run where the brave dare not go.”