Diahann Carroll, TV trailblazer for black women, dead at 84

Obit Diahann Carroll

Diahann Carroll in 1972

She altered her hairstyle and mastered the pilot script, quickly convincing him that she was the right woman.

Not shy when it came to confronting racial barriers, Carroll won her Tony portraying a high-fashion American model in Paris who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1959 Richard Rodgers musical No Strings.

The 1974 film "Claudine" provided her most memorable role.

In the 1980s, she appeared in the long-running prime-time soap opera "Dynasty" for three years. She was 84 years old.

It was on Broadway, however, where Carroll hit her stride. Her father, John, was a subway conductor when she was young, and her mother, Mabel, a nurse.

After she was treated for breast cancer in 1998, she spoke out for more money for research and for free screening for women who couldn't afford mammograms.

In an interview her first day on the set in 1984, Carroll said she wanted to be "the first black b***h on television".

Throughout her career, she carried herself with a level of sophistication that was all her own.

Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis thanked the Oscar and Emmy-nominated Carroll by saying "You left it all on the floor and we were shifted by it". Her other films included 'Goodbye Again, ' "Hurry Sundown, ' "Paris Blues, ' and 'The Split'". She even became engaged to Frost, but the engagement was canceled.

But the show was controversial amid the racial unrest that followed the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Spoiler alert: Dominique Deveraux turned out to be the surprise half-sister of oil baron Blake Carrington. "So when one begins to put a project together, the first thought is, 'What will it earn?' and 'What will it earn worldwide?' And that's why it's important for us to keep pushing that door [open, so] the world knows more about African-Americans". But I did think that it was time for me to stop and try to answer these questions for myself. "Absolutely not", she told Playbill, laughing, at the prospect of returning to the stage 11 years after Sunset Boulevard.

More recently, Carroll had recurring roles as Jasmine Guy's mother on NBC's A Different World, as Isaiah Washington's mom on ABC's Grey's Anatomy and as a Park Avenue widow on USA's White Collar.

On "Pioneers of Television", Carroll recalled that in 1968, several years ahead of Norman Lear's socially conscious sitcom slate, television shows were wary of addressing race.

She was married four times: to Monte Kay, a manager and a casting consultant on House of Flowers; to Freddie Glusman, a Las Vegas clothier (that union lasted just a few weeks); to magazine editor Robert DeLeon (he died in an auto accident in 1977); and to singer Vic Damone (from 1987 until their 1996 divorce). "I know I'll miss her as I'm certain all that knew her will. Rest in Peace my dear friend".

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her grandchildren, August and Sydney.

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