Gone but not certainly not forgotten. Diahann Carroll — the first black woman to win a Tony — has died of cancer, the actress’ daughter, Suzanne Kay, told the Associated Press. She was 84 at the time of her death on Friday, October 4.
Aside from paving the way for black performers on Broadway with her historic win for the musical No Strings in 1962, Diahann was also a groundbreaking force on TV too. With Julia (1968-1971), she was the first black woman to play a non-servant role in a primetime TV series. On the series, she played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband was killed in Vietnam, making her a working single mom. For the role, Diahann snagging an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe.
On top of that, Diahann also played the first black main character on a primetime soap opera with the villainous role of Dominique Deveraux on Dynasty for three seasons between 1984 and 1987. It was for her role in 1974’s Claudine, though, for which she earned an Oscar nomination — just the fourth black woman to do so in history at the time.
Even though Diahann has amassed all these achievements in her life, she revealed exclusively to Closer Weekly in 2017 that she considers her greatest accomplishment to be Suzanne, whom she credits for making her a grandmother.
“Raising grandchildren is glorious. Well we can meet and have a ball and do what we wanna do and then its, ‘Goodnight, nana.’ It’s almost perfection,” Diahann gushed. “It’s made me more religious than I have ever felt because being in their presence for a couple of days I feel as I’ve been lifted, elevated. Its only after they’ve left that I understand the degree to which that is true. I have friends and they will say to me, ‘Was your family here recently?’ And I’ll say ‘yes’ and I am proud of it because I feel I am supposed to be in this place in my life. It’s comforting to know that you belong where you are now.”
At the time, despite all that she had done, when asked if there was more to do in her life Diahann’s response was simple: “Always.”
When news of Diahann’s passing spread on social media, it didn’t take long for her contemporaries and those she inspired to send their tributes to a woman who truly impacted the entertainment industry.
“Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats,” A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay tweeted. “She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.”
Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll. pic.twitter.com/YXjh7d3LWU
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 4, 2019
“Diahann Carroll you taught us so much,” Grey’s Anatomy star Debbie Allen tweeted. “We are stronger, more beautiful and risk takers because of you. We will forever sing your praises and speak your name. Love Love Love, Debbie 💕.”
Diahann Carroll you taught us so much. We are stronger, more beautiful and risk takers because of you. We will forever sing your praises and speak your name. Love Love Love, Debbie💕 pic.twitter.com/1LBUUa2Ql3
— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) October 4, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Diahann’s daughter and grandchildren, August and Sydney, at this time.