Diahann Carroll, the respected actress and racial-barrier pathfinder, has passed at age 84. When I heard the news I immediately flashed to her Tony-award-winning role in Richard Rodgers‘ No Strings, a 1962 stage musical in which she played Richard Kiley‘s lover — regarded at the time as a big barrier-breaking deal.
Six years later Carroll broke another barrier in Julia (’68 to ’71), a TV series about a nurse and her son — the first time that a woman of color had played a non-servant role on TV. (I know, I know.) The series was criticized at the time for presenting an unrealistic, overly sanitized portrait of a single black mom. Wiki excerpt: Gil Scott-Heron‘s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (’71) “referred to Julia in the same breath as Bullwinkle, implying that the character was something of a cartoon.”
Carroll was Oscar-nominated for her performance in Claudine (’74), as another single mother (of six!) who finds romance in Harlem with a sanitation engineer (James Earl Jones).