Posted Feb. 15, 2008 -- If the 39th NAACP Image Awards were choosing sides, it clearly favored "The Great Debaters," one of many honored with awards during its live ceremony Thursday night.
The film about a college debate team racked up eight nominations, and went home with four wins, including best actor (Denzel Washington), best actress (Jurnee Smollett), supporting actor (Denzel Whitaker), and best film. Other top award takers included actor/writer/filmmaker Tyler Perry, whose TBS show "House of Payne" picked up three awards for comedy series, and actor (LaVan Davis) and supporting actor (Lance Gross). Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" also earned Janet Jackson a supporting actress statue.
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"Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera and Vanessa Williams walked away with best actress and supporting actress awards, respectively. On the TV drama side, "Grey's Anatomy" pulled best drama series and supporting actress (Chandra Wilson) wins, as well as kudos for writing. Omar Epps earned one for supporting actor, while "CSI: NY's" Hill Harper snagged best actor. In the variety show category, BET won for "Celebration of Gospel '07".
Musically speaking, Alicia Keys proves she's still on a roll, winning best female artist, best album, song and music video. Chris Brown picked up best male artist.
Special tributes went out to Aretha Franklin who became the 2007 Vanguard Award winner. She recalled attending her first Image Awards in 1969, and described the show as "sophisticated, rousing fun that rivals with the best and is second to none."
Oscar nominee Ruby Dee didn't win for "American Gangster," but she did better: Dee received a beautiful pre-taped tribute from Sidney Poitier and the prestigious Chairman's Award. Musician nominee Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley also performed a song in the actress' honor.
"I accept this award on behalf of all the members, past and present, that have been led by the light of the NAACP," Dee said.
Stevie Wonder, inducted into the Hall of Fame, closed out the show with a performance, after the audience enjoyed a bit of "Don't Forget the Lyrics" fun with game show host Wayne Brady.