Trailblazing Actress Diahann Carroll Passes Away at Age 84

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 04, 2019

Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actress who for decades gave television Black bombshell badass, died of cancer at age 84 today (October 4), her daughter confirmed with NBC News.

Born Carol Diann Johnson on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York, she was awarded a Metropolitan Opera scholarship to study at New York's High School of Music and Art when she was age 10. A born performer, Carroll won a best actress Tony Award in 1962 for "No Strings." She went on to star in the Golden Globe award-winning TV comedy “Julia” (1968), the Black film classic “Claudine” (1974) and the over-the-top primetime soap opera “Dynasty” (1984 to 1987). 

Though “Julia” only lasted from 1968 to 1971, it was groundbreaking for being the first Black television series to exclusively feature the life of a Black professional woman in a way that ignored stereotypes–a widowed nurse who had to care for a young son. In a 1997 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Carroll spoke about early criticism the program received because it had the audacity to be about a middle-class Black family missing a father. “We were of the opinion that what we were doing was important, and we never left that point of view. …We were allowed to put this point of view on the air. We were allowed to have a comedy about a Black middle-class family.”

On“Dynasty,” Carroll played Dominique Deveraux, one of television’s few Black leads and a perfect enemy to Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington Colby. She went on to guest star on the sitcom “A Different World” opposite Patti LaBelle, play a memorable role in “The Five Heartbeats” and appear on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “White Collar.”

Watch the full video interview about “Julia” below or click here to view a four-hour interview with the actress where she spoke about her life, career, diversity in television and more.