Diahann Carroll (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

Long before Kerry Washington’s star turn on ABC’s television drama “Scandal,” there was Diahann Carroll and “Julia.” Debuting on NBC in September 1968, the half hour sitcom followed Carroll as a nurse raising her son and Shadow and Act’s Sergio takes a look back at the strides made by Carroll.

The show was a half hour sit-com, revolving about the life of a young widow played by Carroll who worked as a nurse for a cantankerous, but lovable doctor (Lloyd Nolan) while raising her precocious young son Corey, played by Marc Coppage.

It was one of the first network TV shows to feature a black person in the lead, and an even rarer one to feature a black woman in the lead role ( "I Spy" with Bill Cosby came out three years earlier but he was the co-star not the lead).

There had been the old TV show from the 50′s, Beulah, about a black maid, which was loaded up to the gills with over-the-top black stereotypes. But here was a show about a young, beautiful, independent black woman with a career, in the lead, and you’ll be hard pressed to name similar others, and even if you can, it’s less than a handful outside of Scandal.

The show was a ratings smash when it premiered, and for three seasons did extremely well. So popular that they even came out with a child’s school lunchbox (see below). Can you imagine a "Basketball Wives" lunchbox? You might get cooties.

Read Sergio's entire piece at Shadow and Act.

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