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Diana Patricia Sands[3] (August 22, 1934 – September 21, 1973) was an American actress, perhaps most known for her portrayal of Beneatha Younger, the sister of Sidney Poitier's character in the original stage and film versions of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1961).

Diana Sands
Diana Sands 1963.jpg
Photograph of Sands taken by Carl Van Vechten, circa 1963.
Diana Patricia Sands

(1934-08-22)August 22, 1934
DiedSeptember 21, 1973(1973-09-21) (aged 39)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationMusic & Art High School
Years active1951–1973
Known forBeneatha Younger – A Raisin in the Sun
Lucien Happersberger
(m. 1964; div. 1966)
Partner(s)Curt Baker

Sands also appeared in a number of dramatic television series in the 1960s and 1970s such as I Spy, as Davala Unawa in the 1967 The Fugitive episode "Dossier on a Diplomat", Dr. Harrison in the Outer Limits episode "The Mice", and Julia. Sands also starred in the 1963 film An Affair of the Skin as the narrator and photographer, Janice.


Early life and educationEdit

Diana Patricia Sands was born in the Bronx, New York City, on August 22, 1934 to Rudolph Sands, a Bahamian carpenter, and Shirley (nee Thomas), a milliner. For her early education, Sands attended elementary school in Elmsford, New York. Sands enrolled at the Music & Art High School (which is now identified as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School) in 1949, where she was a classmates of Diahann Carroll and Billy Dee Williams.[4][citation needed] During high school, Sands received her first role in the school production of George Bernard Shaw’s "Major Barbara". After graduation from high school in 1953, Sands began her professional career as a dancer; touring with a traveling carnival.


As Beneatha Younger with Claudia McNeil and Sidney Poitier in the Broadway version of A Raisin in the Sun, 1959.

In 1959, Sands received the role of Beneatha Younger for the Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Two years later, in 1961 Sands co-starred alongside Claudia McNeil, Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee for the film version of the play. A member of the Actors Studio,[5] her performance in the Studio's 1964 production of James Baldwin's Blues for Mr. Charlie was a highlight of that show, and one which would be sorely missed during its subsequent London engagement when Sands had already committed to co-starring with Alan Alda in the original Broadway production of The Owl and the Pussycat (1964) for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[6] Sands was sought eight years later to provide a track for the Original New York Cast album of Free to Be... You and Me. However, she had died by the time the ABC Afterschool Special had begun production and her previously recorded vocal track was not selected for inclusion. In 1970, Sands co-starred in the film The Landlord, and then appeared in Doctors' Wives and Georgia, Georgia.

In 1974, Sands posthumously appeared in Willie Dynamite and Honeybaby, Honeybaby, and was set to star in the film Claudine with James Earl Jones. However, Sands was too ill to accept the role and it went to her longtime friend Diahann Carroll. Sands was twice nominated for a Tony Award, and twice nominated for an Emmy Award as well. [7]

Personal, death and legacyEdit

Sands was married once and had no children. From October 1964 until 1966, Sands was married to Swiss artist Lucien Happersberger.[1][8][9] In his memoirs, Bob Dylan tells of meeting Sands at a party and states that she was, "an electrifying actress who I might have been secretly in love with ..."[10] On September 21, 1973, Sands died of leiomyosarcoma at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City; aged 39. At the time of her death, Sands was engaged Curt Baker who was an assistant film director.[11] Junior High School 147, located in the Bronx, New York, was named in Sands' honor.[citation needed]

Selected CreditsEdit


Year Production Role Theatre(s) Notes
1969 The Gingham Dog[12] John Golden Theatre
1968 Saint Joan[13] Joan Vivian Beaumont Theater
Tiger at the Gates[14] Cassandra Vivian Beaumont Theater
We Bombed in New Haven[15] Ruth Ambassador Theatre
1965 The Premise[16] The Premise Improvisational theatre with material by the performers.
1964 Blues for Mister Charlie[17] Juanita ANTA Playhouse Tony Award nomination, Best Featured Actress in a Play[18]
The Owl and the Pussycat[19] Doris W. ANTA Playhouse
Royale Theatre
Tony Award nomination, Best Actress in a Play[18]
1963 The Living Premise[20] Obie Award, Distinguished Performance
1962 Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright[21] Adelaide Smith Booth Theatre Theatre World Award[18]
1959 A Raisin in the Sun[22] Beneatha Younger Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Belasco Theatre
Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Drama Performance[23]

Partial filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b Jet, April 21, 1966
  2. ^ The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate ... By Nicholas Buccola
  3. ^ Jet, May 21, 1970
  4. ^ Sepia, Volume 26, Issues 7-12, 1977
  5. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Venture Into Production: The Actors Studio Theatre". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 241. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  7. ^ Brown, Stacia. "Diana Sands: What Was and What Could've Been". Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  8. ^ Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America - By Christopher Bram
  9. ^ Jet, Jul 22, 1965
  10. ^ Dylan, Bob (2004). Chronicles:Volume One. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc. p. 67.
  11. ^ Ebony, Jan 1974
  12. ^ "The Gingham Dog". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  13. ^ "Saint Joan". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  14. ^ "Tiger at the Gates". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  15. ^ "We Bombed in New Haven". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  16. ^ Harrison, Paul Carter; Andrews, Bert (1989). In the Shadow of the Great White Way: Images from the Black Theatre (First ed.). New York, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press.
  17. ^ "Blues for Mister Charlie". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  18. ^ a b c "Diana Sands". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  19. ^ "The Owl and the Pussycat". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  20. ^ "1963-64 Obie Award". United States: Infoplease. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  21. ^ "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  22. ^ "A Raisin in the Sun". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  23. ^ "Awards for 1958-1959". United States: Outer Critics Circle Award. Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-11-25.

External linksEdit