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Rep. John Lewis on Passing of Actress Diahann Carroll

October 4, 2019
Press Release

We have lost another great artist of the stage and screen.  Diahann Carroll was the epitome of elegance, poise, and grace.  In 1968, a year of great turmoil and loss, when the nation had to bear the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy, Diahann Carroll’s most beloved television show came on the air.

Though some criticized Julia as unrealistic at a time of great racial tension and pain, many saw Diahann Carroll’s depiction of a professional single mother as a ground-breaking performance. The sweetness of the characters was an escape from the harsh realities facing Americans at the time.  Their innocent tenderness toward each other, an often overlooked characteristic of the black community, made her show a revolutionary portrayal of black culture.  Before The Jeffersons, Good Times and The Cosby Show, there was Julia, which paved the way for deeper, richer versions of the black experience on television.  In this way, Carroll was a forerunner.  She defied all the dehumanizing stereotypes of black women and showed that they were inherently cultured, graceful, beautiful and desirable.

Throughout her entire life, both on screen and off, she displayed a queenly bearing and was looked to as the standard-bearer of class and sophistication.  The world will miss the dignity, talent, and beauty of Diahann Carroll.  She was one of a kind and she will be deeply missed.