Diahann Carroll, a versatile singer and stage actress who quietly blazed a trail for black women on American television in the late 1960s by playing a widowed nurse and single mother in “Julia,” died on Friday at age 84, her manager said.
Carroll, whose career also was punctuated by a pioneering Tony Award and an Oscar nomination, had been suffering from cancer and died in her sleep at home in Los Angeles with her daughter by her side, her manager, Brian Panella, said by phone.
“She had been fighting it for quite some time, and did not want the world to know,” said Panella, who had managed her career for 20 years.
With a handful of movie roles and an award-winning Broadway career already under her belt, Carroll landed the title role in the 1968 situation comedy “Julia.” She played Julia Baker, a nurse struggling to raise a young son by herself after her husband was killed in the Vietnam War.
The show, which ran for three seasons on NBC and earned Carroll a Golden Globe Award and Emmy nomination, was a breakthrough for African-American women who were only beginning to make inroads on the small screen at the time.
Actress Nichelle Nichols first appeared two years earlier on “Star Trek” in the supporting role of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura. But “Julia” was the first prime-time network series to star a black woman playing a professional character, as opposed to a maid or domestic worker, as was the case in the 1950s sitcom “Beulah.”