Black News and News Makers in History: Diahann Carroll

African American news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Diahann Carroll this week in Black history.Diahann Carroll was born Carol Diahann Johnson on July 17, 1935 in Bronx, New York to John Johnson and Mabel Faulk.  She grew up in Harlem and attended Music & Art High School along with schoolmate Billy Dee Williams. 

At the age of 18, Carroll got her big break when she appeared as a contestant on the Dumont Television Network program, ‘Chance of a Lifetime’. On the show which aired Friday, January 8, 1954, Carroll took the $1,000 top prize on the strength of her rendition of the Kern/Hammerstein song, "Why Was I Born?"  She went on to win the following two weeks. Engagements at Manhattan's Café Society and Latin Quarter nightclubs soon followed.

Carroll's film debut was a supporting role in ‘Carmen Jones’ (1954) as a friend of the sultry lead character. She then starred in the Broadway musical, ‘House of Flowers’.

In 1959, she played Clara in the film version of Porgy and Bess, but her character's singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman.

In 1962, she won the Tony Award for best actress (a first for a black woman) for the role of Barbara Woodruff in the musical ‘No Strings’.

In 1974, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for Claudine.

Carroll is best known for her title role in the 1968 television series Julia, which made her the first African American actress to star in her own television series where she did not play a domestic worker. She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1969, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In A Television Series” in 1968. 

Her first Emmy nomination had come in 1963 for ‘Naked City. Some of her other earlier work included appearances on shows hosted by Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson, Judy Garland and Ed Sullivan, and on ‘The Hollywood Palace’ variety show.

In 1984, Carroll joined the nighttime soap opera ‘Dynasty’ as the jetsetter Dominique Deveraux, half-sister of Blake Carrington played by actor John Forsythe. Her high profile role on ‘Dynasty’ also reunited her with actor Billy Dee Williams, who briefly played her onscreen husband Brady Lloyd. Carroll remained on the show until 1987, simultaneously making several appearances on its short-lived spinoff, ‘The Colbys’.

She received her third Emmy nomination in 1989 for the recurring role of Marion Gilbert in ‘A Different World’.

In 2006, she appeared in the television medical drama ‘Grey's Anatomy’as Jane Burke, the demanding mother of Dr. Preston Burke.

In December 2008, Carroll was cast in USA Network’s series ‘White Collar’ as June, the savvy widow who rents out her guest room to Neal Caffrey.

She appeared as Nana in 2010 Lifetime Movies "At Risk" and "The Front", movie adaptations of two Patricia Cornwell novels.

Carroll starred as the crazed silent movie star Norma Desmond in the Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of the classic film ‘Sunset Boulevard’.

She is the recipient of numerous stage and screen awards and nominations. Carroll has been married four times and became the mother of a daughter in 1960.

She is a breast cancer survivor and activist.  She invited a camera crew into her treatment room for a national broadcast special to draw attention to the disease.  Carroll was featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docudrama entitled, ‘1 a Minute’, released in 2010.  She is national spokesperson for Star Campaign & has line of products for women dealing with breast cancer. 



  • Chance of a Lifetime (1954) (four consecutive weeks as a contestant)
  • The Red Skelton Hour (1954)
  • Peter Gunn (1960) as Dina Wright in episode "Sing a Song of Murder"
  • The Man in the Moon (1960)
  • The Garry Moore Show (1960) (Recurring for several weeks)
  • Naked City (1962) as Ruby Jay in episode "A Horse Has a Big Head -- Let Him Worry!"
  • The Eleventh Hour (1963) as Stella Young in episode "And God Created Vanity"
  • Frank Sinatra-A Man And His Music Television Special (1968)
  • Julia (1968–71)
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) as Mermeia Holographic Wow
  • Dynasty (cast member from 1984–87)
  • The Colbys (recurring guest star 1985-86)
  • From the Dead of Night (1989)
  • A Different World (1989–93)
  • Murder in Black and White (1990)
  • Sunday in Paris (1991)
  • Lonesome Dove: The Series (1994–1995)
  • A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle (1994)
  • The Sweetest Gift (1998)
  • Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (1999)
  • Jackie's Back (1999)
  • The Courage to Love (2000)
  • Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000) (miniseries)
  • Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000)
  • The Court (2002) (canceled after 6 episodes)
  • Soul Food (2003–2004)
  • Grey's Anatomy (2006–2007)
  • White Collar (2009- )


  • Carmen Jones (1954)
  • Porgy and Bess (1959)
  • Goodbye Again (1961)
  • Paris Blues (1961)
  • Hurry Sundown (1967)
  • The Split (1968)
  • Claudine (1974)
  • Sister, Sister (1982)
  • The Five Heartbeats (1991)
  • Color Adjustment (1992 (documentary)
  • Eve's Bayou (1997)
  • Over The River...Life of Lydia Maria Child, Abolitionist for Freedom (2008) (documentary) (narrator)


  • Diahann Carroll Sings Harold Arlen Songs (1957)
  • Best Beat Forward (1958)
  • The Persian Room Presents Diahann Carroll (1959)
  • Porgy and Bess (1959) (with the Andre Previn Trio)
  • Diahann Carroll and the Andre Previn Trio (1960)
  • Fun Life (1961)
  • The Fabulous Diahann Carroll (1963)
  • A You're Adorable: Love Songs for Children (1967)
  • Nobody Sees Me Cry (1967)
  • Diahann Carroll (1974)
  • A Tribute to Ethel Waters (1978)
  • The Time of My Life (1997)


  • House of Flowers (December 30, 1954 - May 21, 1955) (Broadway)
  • No Strings (March 15, 1962 - August 3, 1963) (Broadway)
  • Same Time, Next Year (1977) (Los Angeles)
  • Agnes of God (March 30, 1982 - September 4, 1983) (replacement for Elizabeth Ashley starting in spring of 1983)
  • Love Letters (1990) (Los Angeles)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1995–1996) (Toronto)

Awards and Nominations:

  • 1962 Tony Award for Best Actress – No Strings
  • 1968 Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star - Female – Julia
  • 1969 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – Julia
  • 1963 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Naked City
  • 1970 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical Television Series – Julia
  • 1975 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical Motion Picture – Claudine
  • 1975 Academy Award for Best Actress – Claudine
  • 1989 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series – A Different World
  • 1992 Women in Film Crystal Award.
  • 1998 Women in Film Lucy Award
  • 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Children's Special/Series – The Sweetest Gift
  • 2000 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series/Television Movie – Having a Say: The Delany Sisters' 1st 100 Years
  • 2005 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Drama Series – Soul Food
  • 2008 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series – Grey's Anatomy
  • BET’s list of “Black Hollywood Beauties.” 
A force to be reckoned with, overcoming breast cancer, an abusive spouse, the sudden death of a spouse, and more, Diahann is a triple threat with her work spanning across television, theater, music, and yes-even wig design!

Compiled from Wikipedia.