Cicely Tyson, the award-winning actress whose film, television, and theater roles included “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “Roots,” “King,” “Sounder,” and “The Help,” died on Thursday, according to an announcement by her family.
Tyson’s choice of film and television roles helped shatter Hollywood’s African American stereotypes throughout the 1970s, as she insisted on playing characters that allowed her to radiate strength and dignity.
“What you put there is everlasting on film,” she told The Washington Post as she reflected on her career in 2015. “And there was no way in the world that I was going to do something that I thought was degrading to myself as a woman, myself as a Black woman, to women in general, to my race of people for future generations.”
In Tyson’s dynamic career she appeared in 29 films. She also appeared in over 100 TV episodes, including several mini-series productions such as Roots. She also appeared in 15 different theatrical plays spanning from 1957 through 2015.
She was rewarded with 17 Emmy nominations while winning three. Her performance in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” won her an Emmy as Best Lead Actress in a Drama and also an Emmy for Actress of the Year – Special in 1974.She won her third Emmy in 1994 as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special in “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tell All.”
Tyson also won a Tony Award in 2013 for Best Actress in a Play for her role in “The Trip to Bountiful.” In addition to her Screen Actor Guild Award, her Tony Award, her Emmy Awards, and her Black Reel Awards, Tyson received several other honors including an Honorary Academy Award in 2018.
Tyson received Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, and President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Other honors included a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and honorary degrees from Morehouse College and Columbia University. Tyson was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 2010, an acknowledgment of “the highest or noblest achievement” by an African-American.
The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts (now the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Fine and Performing Arts) was dedicated in 1995 East Orange, New Jersey. Tyson not only appreciated the honor, she also chose to be involved with the school, visiting the school and participating in the school’s decisions and events.
Cicely Tyson was born December 9, 1924 in Harlem, New York and died January 29, 2021 in New York City. She is survived by family, friends, and millions of fans. She was a phenomenal lady who will be missed by all.