Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has been a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s 900AM WURD. The views expressed here are solely hers. Read more opinion on CNN.
Diahann Carroll is gone today– passed away at 84 from breast cancer, her publicist said. But for me she will forever be that beautiful, chocolate-brown princess I first saw performing scenes–with her glistening voice–from “Porgy and Bess,” with Sammy Davis Jr. on the premiere episode of “The Diahann Carroll Show,” back in 1976.
Wow. I was starstruck.
To my young eyes—and to the eyes of so many of my peers–Diahann Carroll was everything that a woman should be: smart, elegant, funny, and a career woman. Carroll had already shattered racial stereotypes on television with her starring role in the 1968 series “Julia,” on NBC. She played a widowed mother and nurse — a life I connected with because my father had also died.
As Julia, Carroll was the first black woman to star in a sitcom and not play a domestic worker. Huge, at the time. In fact, it’s hard to overstate what an important figure she was. In my working-class black neighborhood, men, women, children–we were all captivated by her. I loved watching my mother — the only woman I ever thought was more beautiful than Carroll — imitate the actress’s hairdos and outfits.
In Diahann Carroll, we recognized our own beauty.