Television Pioneer Diahann Carroll Dead at 84
Diahann Carroll, who pioneered television for African Americans in the late 1960s’ with her starring role in the 1968 series “Julia,” died Friday, her publicist Jeffrey Lane. Carroll was 84 years old died at her Los Angeles home after a long bout with cancer.
The Bronx native captivated audiences with her singing and acting. She went on to win a Tony Award and Oscar nomination. Diahann Carroll made television history becoming the first African-American woman to star in a network sitcom in a non stereotypical role when “Julia” premiered on NBC in 1968. Carroll received an Emmy nomination and Golden Globe for her work.
“We were saying to the country, ‘We’re going to present a very upper middle-class black woman raising her child, and her major concentration is not going to be about suffering in the ghetto,'” Carroll noted.
“Many people were incensed about that. They felt that [African Americans] didn’t have that many opportunities on television or in film to present our plight as the underdog … they felt the [real-world] suffering was much too acute to be so trivial as to present a middle-class woman who is dealing with the business of being a nurse.
“But we were of the opinion that what we were doing was important, and we never left that point of view … even though some of that criticism of course was valid. We were of a mind that this was a different show. We were allowed to have this show.”
More recently, Carroll had recurring roles as Jasmine Guy’s mother on NBC’s A Different World, as Isaiah Washington’s mom on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and as a Park Avenue widow on USA’s White Collar. She also appeared in such films as Eve’s Bayou (1997) and on stage as Norma Desmond in a musical version of Sunset Blvd.
She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2011. Survivors include her daughter and her grandchildren, August and Sydney