Cicely Tyson, an African-American actress, died on January 28, 2021. Larry Thompson, her longtime manager, announced the passing of Cicely Tyson. She was 86 years old. Cicely Tyson is highly respected, especially in the Black communities, for refusing to act in roles that demean Black people, even when no other acting options were available.
Cicely Tyson was born, one of three children, in Harlem on December 19, 1924 from parents who immigrated from Nevis in the West Indies in the Carribean. Her father, a carpenter and a painter and her mother, a housekeeper, were deeply religious. This had a major impact on Cicely Tyson's beginnings. In her youth, she sang in the choir and attended prayer meetings at an Episcopal church in East Harlem.
Her career spanned more than 65 years, and earned her a lot of prestigious awards, recognitions, and medals. From most of her roles, she became known for her portrayal of strong Black women. Cicely Tyson was the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award, one Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award. She was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Council of Negro Women.
In 2016, Cicely Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., by President Barack Obama.
First discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine, Cecily Tyson launched her career as a successful fashion model. She went on to act, starting with a role on the NBC television series Frontiers of Faith, in 1951.
Some of Cicely Tyson most prominent roles include the portrayal of a centenarian black woman in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and her life from slavery until her death well before the Civil rights movement; Binta in the 1977 miniseries Roots; Coretta Scott King in the 1978 miniseries King; Sipsey in Fried Green Tomatoes; Constantine Jefferson, a maid in Jackson, Mississippi in The Help; Ophelia Harkness in How to Get Away with Murder; and many, many more.
As a tribute, US Vice-president Kamala Harris tweeted, on Jan 29, 2021: "Cicely Tyson broke barriers and paved the way for so many. She inspired the world with her art, activism, and altruism. Cicely, thank you for your wisdom over the years – I will forever be grateful."
Cicely Tyson was, at some time, married to the renowned Black jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.