Throwback Thursday: Diahann Carroll Stars in 'Julia'

“Earlier in my life television was not an option for me, or for anyone who looked like me,” Diahann Carroll said. She was born in 1939. When she started singing in nightclubs as a young woman, the manager would give Carroll a suite and lock her inside for her safety. Still, Carroll was never afraid of performing: “Singing and acting is a part of who I am.”

In 1962, Carroll starred in “No Strings,” an interracial romance musical on Broadway. She won a Tony for playing a fashion model living in Paris. It wasn’t until six years later that writer Hal Kanter approached her to play the protagonist in his groundbreaking TV show, the first series to show an African American in a leading, non-stereotypical role. “We were willing to walk away from all the cliches and the caricatures of what black people are supposed to be,” Carroll told MAKERS.

She played widowed single mother Julia Baker, whose chief concerns were her career as a nurse and her son. “She really was an American woman,” Carroll said of Julia. Carroll won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance, and the show ran for 86 episodes, until 1971.

Happy Birthday Diahann Carroll! Thank you for paving the way with your performances.

Hear the star’s story in her own words: