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At 82, Diahann Carroll Looks Back on a Career of Firsts

Actress gets personal on daughter, Ed Sullivan and African Americans

Diahann Carroll

Blake Little/Getty Images

Actress Diahann Carroll was recently in Washington, D.C., to help promote a new documentary: Sullivision: Ed Sullivan and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which examines the variety show host's groundbreaking record of bringing African American artists on his program in the 1950s and '60s when such appearances on television were unusual.



Carroll's interest in the film is quite personal. Her daughter, Suzanne Kay, is coproducing it with Margo Speciale, who is Sullivan's granddaughter, reports the Washington Post. Carroll was part of a panel discussing the film at the fifth annual March on Washington Film Festival. "I'm just Mom," Carroll later told the Post. "This is her work, and I must respect it."

Along with Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross, Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder and others, Carroll performed on Sullivan's show several times, and it helped boost a career that contained many firsts. She was the first black actress to win a Tony, which she won for the 1962 musical No Strings. As the star of the television show Julia in 1969, she won a Golden Globe for portraying a black character in a sitcom who was a widowed nurse, not a maid. In 1984, she had a role on Dynasty that Carroll described as TV's "first black bitch."

At 82, after working throughout a long life, Carroll said she is happy playing a supporting role in her daughter's career.

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