Shortly after celebrating her 96th birthday just last month, Cicely Tyson, renowned for her portrayals of strong female characters on stage, screen, and television, has unfortunately passed away at the age of 96. Her family has yet to reveal any details or cause of death at this time.
What We Know:
- The late actress, advocate, and humanitarian was known for her over 60-year career, starting with her initial stage appearance as Barbara Allen in Dark of the Moon to her triumphant 2013 return to Broadway. Despite the uncertainty surrounding her birth year, due to Ms. Tyson being protective of her privacy, she was born in New York City on December 19, 1924.
- Ms. Tyson’s career trajectory wasn’t a smooth one; at times, she had trouble simply finding work. She flatly refused to do “blaxploitation” films or to take parts solely for the paycheck and was selective about the roles she chose. As she explained in a 1983 interview, “Unless a piece really said something, I had no interest in it. I have got to know that I have served some purpose here.”
- Since Ms. Tyson kept much of her personal life to herself, most of what was already publicly known is that she married once during the ’80s. She married Miles Davis and they were together for roughly seven years from 1981 to 1988, but had no children.
- In 1977, as a student of the American Film Institute, Ms. Tyson directed the one-act play, Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn. She was also inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977.
- Best Known for her double Emmy performance (Best Lead Actress in a Drama as well as a special, unprecedented Emmy Award for Actress of the Year) as Jane in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ms. Tyson was also nominated in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019 for an Emmy for her recurring guest role as Ophelia, Annalise’s mother (Viola Davis) in ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder. She received her third Emmy award for The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and was nominated for her performance in Roots, King, Sweet Justice, The Marva Collins Story, and A Lesson Before Dying.
- In March 2014, Ms. Tyson served as the executive producer of the film version of The Trip to Bountiful, presented on Lifetime Television network.
- Ms. Tyson is among the elite number of entertainers honored with a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. Ms. Tyson was recognized for her contribution to the performing arts at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. She is the recipient of the NAACP’s highest honor, the prestigious Spingarn Award. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the highest civilian award of the United States.
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- Just this past December, Tyson celebrated her 96th birthday and received love from many Black Hollywood figures and entertainers via heart-warming social media messages. Being one such figure, Viola Davis posted a photo with the actress on Instagram and has done so once more regarding her passing. Dishearted, she still wrote, “You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls,” expressing the feelings of many women that looked up to her and broke barriers for.
- A memoir titled Just As I Am was published on January 26th, 2021. The book captures her authentic life and emotions while gracing the stage for the last six decades. Just before the novel’s release, Tyson gave some insight into her life and the book in an interview with CBS This Morning. Much of the meeting highlighted the early years of her career, the time spent with her only husband, and why she chose her career to begin with. Around the end of the interview, Tyson was asked, “when the time comes, what do you want us to remember about you?” She simply replied, “I’ve done my best, that’s all.”
Some of Tyson’s final significant accomplishments included becoming the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Oscar in November 2018 and later being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2020. She is survived by her niece, British actress Cathy Tyson. May our Queen rest in peace.