ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Diahann Carroll
National Visionary

Born on July 17, 1935
in the Bronx, New York

Pioneering stage, television and film actress; first black woman to star in a network television series, Julia









BIOGRAPHY
Award-winning stage, television and screen actress Diahann Carroll has been a pioneer in many areas of entertainment for more than a half century. She was born Carol Diahann Johnson on July 17, 1935 to John and Mabel Johnson in the Bronx, New York City.

Carroll's mother was a homemaker and her father was a subway conductor for the New York City Department of Transportation. Carroll was 13 when her only sibling, Lydia, was born.

When Carroll was six, she began singing in a choir at her Harlem church. A few years later she won a scholarship for music lessons with an organization affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera. Carroll then attended the High School of Music and Art in New York.

In 1951, Carroll sang for three weeks on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Show and began calling herself Diahann Carroll. The next year, Carroll won first place for three weeks on the television show, Chance of a Lifetime . Carroll won prize money and a week's engagement at a nightclub. In 1953, Carroll auditioned for the Broadway play House of Flowers . While waiting to learn if she had secured the part, Carroll took a small role in the 1954 movie musical Carmen Jones (an updated version of the opera Carmen in an African American setting.)

After Carmen Jones , Carroll played the part of Ottilie in House of Flowers , which earned her a Tony nomination. Carroll married Monte Kay, the play's casting director, in 1956 and had one daughter, Suzanne Patricia Ottilie Kay, born on September 9, 1960.

Carroll played the role of Clara in the film Porgy and Bess with Sidney Poitier in the late 1950s. After she worked on the film Paris Blues , she divorced Kay in 1963, and she became involved in a relationship with Poitier for nine years.

After Paris Blues, Carroll returned to New York and met with legendary composer Richard Rodgers, who had written the play No Strings for her. The play was about a successful African American fashion model involved in a relationship with a white man. For the role, she received a Tony Award in 1962, the first for an African American woman.

In 1968, Carroll became the first black actress in television history to star in her own series, Julia, for NBC. The role marked the first time an African American starred solo on a television show in a non-stereotypical role. Carroll won a Golden Globe in 1968 and earned an Emmy nomination in 1969 for Julia . Constant criticism from whites and African Americans alike that the show was not a realistic portrayal of African American life led Carroll to decline to renew her contract with the show in 1970.

In early 1973, Carroll married and divorced Las Vegas businessman Freddie Glusman. Three months after her divorce from Glusman, Carroll was asked to star in Claudine , the story of a strong-willed mother raising six children in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. She received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

Carroll married her third husband, Robert DeLeon, an editor at Jet magazine in 1975 and at that time, decided to retire from entertainment. Sadly, DeLeon died in an automobile accident in 1977. Carroll then returned to show business.

Continuing to break new ground in the entertainment world, Carroll won the first major prime-time soap opera role for an African American when she joined the television show Dynasty as Dominique Devereaux in 1984. Two years later, Carroll wrote her first memoir, Diahann!

In 1987, Carroll married her fourth husband, singer Vic Damone. They divorced in 1996. As the 1980s ended, Carroll returned to television in A Different World . During the 1990s, she appeared in such films as The Five Heartbeats and Eve's Bayou. In 1995, Carroll portrayed Norma Desmond in the stage version of Sunset Boulevard in Toronto.

In 1997, Carroll created a signature line of clothes and a line of wigs for African American women. The following year, Carroll was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to go public. Since her diagnosis, Carroll has become an outspoken advocate for early detection and has served as spokeswoman for the National Women's Cancer Research Alliance.

In 2005, Carroll's album The Magic of Diahann Carroll was released. And in 2006, Carroll gained a new generation of fans for her work as Isaiah Washington's mother on ABC's hit drama Grey's Anatomy.

In September 2008, Carroll's second memoir was published. The New York Times bestseller is titled The Legs are the Last to Go .

VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
www.diahanncarroll.net
Diahann Carroll's Wikipedia Page

RELATED LINKS

Eartha Kitt 's Visionary Page
Ossie Davis's Visionary Page
Ruby Dee 's Visionary Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/carrolldiahann

Share
Post to MySpace! Share on MySpace!
ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z