This Day In History: July 17th
Legendary actress and performer Diahann Carroll began her career during the 1950s and earned more than 50 acting credits over the span of six decades. The award-winning actress is known for her roles in works such as Julia (1968), Claudine (1974), Dynasty (1984) and more recently, USA’s White Collar (2009).
Carol Diahann Johnson was born on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York. She got her start modeling clothes in magazines, including Jet and Ebony. In addition to modeling, she would also participate in talent search competitions and began going by the name Diahann Carroll.
By 1954, Diahann Carroll made her first Broadway appearance in The House of Flowers and also made her film debut in Carmen Jones. She earned roles in Porgy & Bess (1959), Paris Blues (1961) and ABC’s Naked City (1962) while also balancing singing appearances. During a performance on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show, Diahann Carroll caught the attention of Richard Rodgers and he decided to create a Broadway musical centered around her. She won a Tony Award for her role in Rodgers’1962 production, No Strings. It was the first Tony given to a black woman for best actress in a lead role of a musical.
After building her reputation as a promising talent, Diahann Carroll was approached by NBC executives to star as Julia Baker in the sitcom Julia. The series lasted from 1968 to 1971 and her character portrayed an upper-middle-class African-American widowed nurse raising her son as a single mother. She won the Golden Globe for her performance. Following her lead role in Julia, she was cast in Claudine alongside James Earl Jones.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Diahann Carroll took a short-lived break from show business before returning to fans in the role of Dominique Deveraux on Dynasty. After her reemergence in the spotlight, she continued to make television appearances in shows such as A Different World (1989). She remained a sought-after guest star on shows, earning spots on more recent shows, including Grey’s Anatomy (2006), White Collar (2009) and Diary Of A Single Mom (2010).
In addition to the Tony, Golden Globe and NAACP Image awards, Diahann Carroll was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2011. She is also the author of two memoirs, Diahann (1986) and The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, Mothering and Other Things I Learned Along the Way (2008).
Diahann Carroll died on October 4, 2019, in Los Angeles, California.