About Christmas TV History

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black History Month: Julia

The TV series Julia starring Diahann Carroll ran for three seasons (1968-71) and broke racial barriers. This sitcom marks one of the first times a black female character was able to be the lead and titular character of her own show. The only previous example is the TV sitcom Beulah, which ran on TV from 1950-52. However, this black female character was reduced to playing a racially stereotypical role and a maid in a white household. In Julia, Diahann Carroll plays a widowed single mother raising her young son and working as a nurse. This pleasant sitcom includes a 1968 Christmas episode entitled "I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas."

Julia's son, Corey, and his best friend, Earl J. Waggedorn, argue over whether Santa Claus is a white or black man. Julia takes her son to the tree lot but all the salesman has left on Christmas Eve is a twisted, bent Christmas tree that won’t stand up. That night, we see their friends independently arranging to have three separate black Santa Clauses come to the apartment to visit Corey. The babysitter’s Santa Claus gets lost in the shuffle but the Waggedorn’s Santa Claus pleases Corey as does Dr. Chegley’s Santa--who is actually Julia’s uncle that Chegley has flown in from Kansas.

The highlight of this outstanding holiday episode is hearing Diahann Carroll as Julia singing Christmas carols to her son including ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells.’

Wait for the heartwarming scene where Earl J. Waggedorn emerges from his bedroom to see his parents with a black Santa Claus, finally realizing Corey has been right all along.

Christmas episode of Julia--Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Entertainer Diahann Carroll has appeared in many TV shows over the years since Julia. Perhaps most memorably she played Dominique Devereaux, the disgruntled sister to Blake Carrington on the primetime soap, Dynasty, as well as Whitley Gilbert's mother on the spin-off sitcom A Different World. However, she also appeared on the 1978 two-hour fiasco, The Star Wars Holiday Special as a titulating musical entertainer on the elder wookie Itchy's Mind Evaporator virtual reality viewing device. If you've seen it, you haven't forgotten this weird scene.

from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special

Diahann Carroll has had a long and rich career. But I've focused on Julia's Christmas episode to celebrate Black History Month because of the show's special place in TV history and because it features Diahann Carroll at her best.


  1. Oh man, I adore Julia. What a great show. I remember it was one of Fred Williamson's first gigs as an actor and he's so wonderful in it (I just caught him in a great episode of Amen as well... I had no idea how big his funny bone was)...

    Is Julia on DVD, cuz I'd love to revisit.

    Carroll is a great choice for BHM. What a wonderful actress!

  2. No, "Julia" isn't on DVD as far as I can tell. I fell in love with the series when it aired on television in the earliest days of TVLand. Those were the days, eh?