The groundbreaking actress, singer and Broadway performer Diahann Carroll has passed away at her home in Los Angeles on Friday. She was 84 years old.
Carroll’s death comes after she battled cancer for some time, and her daughter Suzanne Kay confirmed the news to the Hollywood Reporter.
The actress, who was born in the Bronx, New York, was the first Black person to star in her own series, “Julia,” which ran from 1968 to 1971. In it, Carroll played a nurse named Julia Baker, who raised a son as a single mother after her husband was killed in the Vietnam War.
“Julia” was also the first show that featured a Black actor or actress on television in a non-servant role, and Baker was educated, upper-middle class and dated. It was a role that secured Carroll a Golden Globe award, as well as an Emmy nomination.
“There was nothing like this young successful mother on the air,” she told PBS awhile back. “And we thought that it might be a very good steppingstone.”
And in a separate interview, Carroll said “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.'”
But Carroll didn’t shun roles that showed the Black struggle, because she played Claudine Price in the 1974 film “Claudine,” where she portrayed a single mother living in Harlem, raising six children.
The film also starred James Earl Jones, who played her love interest, and Carroll received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
But younger fans may associate the iconic entertainer with the ’80s primetime soap opera “Dynasty,” and its spinoff “The Colbys,” where she played Dominique Deveraux. Carroll was the first Black person to have a major role on a primetime soap, where she once again broke racial barriers.
And on stage, she starred in productions like 1962’s “No Strings,” which won her a Tony.
“Carroll was a consummate entertainer and beloved icon whose career spanned nearly seven decades,” said Kay in a statement. “She paved the way for many and never allowed anyone to limit or define her.”
After news of Carroll’s death spread, social media lit up with photos and messages about her immeasurable impact.
Ava DuVernay also sent a message.
“Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep,” she tweeted on Friday. “An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.”