Actress, Model and Activist

As a young mother struggling to keep up with three over-energized children, going to the movies and fashion shows, was not at the head of my list.  So…the name Diahann Carroll did not cross my radar until the late sixties!  At that time, her beauty leaped from the TV screen into the hearts and minds of many African Americans.  However, it was more than her beauty that caused scores of African Americans to sit down with Ms. Carroll as Nurse Julia each week.


It was the role she played–a self-assured, strong, black woman, whose mind was sharp and actions decisive.  Prior to that, all African American females were cast as domestic workers on television.  It was America’s way of making sure “we knew our place.”  Bursting out of that stereotypical role, “did black women proud” everywhere.   We knew our minds were sharp, our bodies beautiful and our lives reached far above domestic work, but America had to “get where we were!”  Julia was one of the social mechanisms for getting it there.

Diahann Carroll was born July 17, 1935 in Bronx, New York and passed away October 4, 2019 from breast cancer.  Her career spanned many years, and compensated her with many awards and “first achievements.”  Among them, the first black women to receive the Tony Award for best actress in 1962 for her role in the Broadway musical No Strings, the Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in A Television” in 1968, an Emmy for the series in 1969, $1000 as a contestant on the DuMont Television Network program at the age 18 in 1954, and an Academy Award for best actress in the film Claudine in 1974.

Throughout much of her life, Ms. Carroll was a community activist, working with the Celebrity Action Council in Los Angeles to rehabilitate women plagued by drugs, alcohol and prostitution.  Not only did she possess unquestionable external beauty, she also radiated with inner beauty.  Her life as a celebrity exemplifies an immeasurable talent, but her life as a human being shines with remarkable splendor!

Diahann Carroll…We respect and adore you!

Written by Dr. Mamie Smith