Diahann Carroll, pioneering African-American actress, dead at 84

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Diahann Carroll, who made history in 1968 as the first African-American woman to star in a television series in a non-stereotypical role, passed away today at 84, Variety reports.

Her daughter, Suzannne Kay, confirmed that she died from cancer.

Carroll was a trailblazer who opened the door for black women on TV by starring as the title character in the sitcom Julia, from 1968 to 1971. Julia was a widowed single mother and nurse.  Previous shows had starred black characters, they were usually domestic workers.

Carroll won a Golden Globe for Best TV Star for her role in 1969, and was inducted into Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011.

Carroll began her film career in 1954 in the classic Carmen Jones, co-starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Her second film was another classic, 1959’s Porgy and Bess,starring Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dandridge.

Carroll became the fourth black actress ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1974 film Claudine, co-starring James Earl Jones.

One of her Carroll’s most popular roles was Dominique Deveraux in the 1980’s series Dynasty, where she served as a foil for Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington Colby.  Deveraux was the first major African-American character on a prime time soap opera.

The legendary entertainer was also a member of the cast of the groundbreaking Roots: The Next Generation mini-series in 1979.

Carroll began her career as a model, and attended Music and Art High School in New York City with Billy Dee Williams. She was an outstanding vocalist as well as actress.

In addition to her film and television career, Carroll starred in several Broadway productions, including Agnes of God, Sunset Boulevard, and Bubbling Brown Sugar.  In 1962, she became the first black woman to win a Tony in 1962 for Outstanding Lead Actress, for her role in the musical No Strings.

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