Vinnette Justine Carroll was born in New York City, New York to Edgar Edgerton and Florence (née Morris) Carroll on March 11, 1922. At the age of three years old, her family moved to Jamaica, where they spent much of her youth. Her parents were professionals, as her father was a dentist and her mother was an educator who also led the local dental auxiliary society. They, especially her father, strongly encouraged Vinnette and her two sisters to enter the field of medicine and become physicians.
The Carroll family returned to New York City, where Vinnette graduated from a racially-integrated Wadleigh High School, located in the Harlem community of the Manhattan borough. After graduation, she matriculated Long Island University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1944. Following, Carroll earned a Master of Arts degree from New York University in 1946. While Vinnette was greatly interested in working in the field of theatre arts, the Carroll parents advocated that becoming a doctor was more stable, especially in a field that was discriminatory to Black women. However, the sight of blood made Vinnette ill so as a compromise, she decided to pursue being a doctor who dealt with the mind.
Vinnette Carroll completed her doctoral studies in psychology, which included clinical psychology and industrial psychology, at Columbia University in the City of New York. Although she was a PhD candidate, she elected not to engage in that field long-term because she wanted to pursue a career in theatre. It should be noted that her doctoral work was not in vain; Carroll found her studies in psychology invaluable because it supported her working with others, especially in acting.