1 9 6 8 – 1 9 7 1 (USA)
86 x 30 minute episodes
In 1968, Diahann Carroll became the first African-American woman to have the lead in a hit TV show, starring as Julia Baker, an independent widowed mother of six-year-old Corey (Marc Copage). Her Air Force pilot husband had been killed in Vietnam.
Julia moved to Los Angeles following her husband’s death and found a job at the medical office of Astrospace Industries, where her home, work and social life provided material for the series.
Julia lived in a modern integrated apartment building with her little boy, whose best friend was white kid Earl J Waggedorn (Michael Link), one of their neighbours.
Other characters in Julia’s home life were Earl’s dad Leonard (Hank Brandt), landlord Sol Cooper (Ned Glass) and mothers helper Carol Deering (Allison Mills).
At work, the middle-class heroine had equally harmonious relations with her white employer, feisty and kind-hearted Doctor Morton Chegley (Lloyd Nolan), his wife Melba (Mary Wickes), fellow nurse Hannah Yarby (Lurene Tuttle) and plant employee Eddie (Eddie Quillan).
Romantic partners were, however, strictly black. Paul Cameron (Paul Winfield) was Julia’s occasional boyfriend for the first two seasons and was replaced by Steve Bruce (Fred Williamson), a widower with a four-year-old daughter, Kim (Stephanie James), during the series’ final year.
There was initial controversy surrounding this non-traditional black role (she wasn’t somebody’s maid like most other black characters on television) and black critics called the show a “cop-out,” claiming she did not accurately portray black women.
Things eventually settled down and the show ran for three seasons and Julia became the highest-rated show on TV within a month of premiering.
Ultimately the liberal white press and young militant blacks criticised and finally denounced the NBC programme as false and distorted.
Diahann admits this show almost killed her. She was hospitalised twice for stress and weighed only 99 pounds. After three years, she asked to be released from her contract.
Diahann Carroll later starred as Dominique Deveraux, half-sister of Blake Carrington in Dynasty.
Carroll passed away in October 2019, aged 84.
Dr Morton Chegley
Earl J Waggedorn