Prominent Golden Globe award-winning Hollywood actress Cicely Tyson has died at age 96, Tyson’s longtime manager Larry Thompson confirmed in a statement on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
The icon started her career in the entertainment Industry in early 1950’s and she was most famously known for her roles playing resilient, uplifting Black women.
Born in New York City on December 19, 1924, Tyson started her career as a secretary at a Red Cross office after she graduated from high school before she decided to call it quit to pursue her modeling career.
In 1959, Tyson broke into movies with the Harry Belafonte film “Odds Against Tomorrow,” followed by “The Comedians,” “The Last Angry Man,” “A Man Called Adam” and “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”
Refusing to play drug addicts, prostitutes or maids roles that demeaned Black women in blaxploitation movies, Tyson took time off screens before she returned in 1972 to the screen in the drama “Sounder,” which captured several Oscar nominations including one for Tyson as best actress.
Over the years, Tyson played remarkable roles in some of the most celebrated movies and television shows featuring Black women including, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), “Roots” (1977), “The Marva Collins Story” (1981), “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989), and “The Help” (2011).
In 2013, at the age of 88, Tyson won the Tony for best leading actress in a play for the revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful.” It was the actor’s first time back on Broadway in three decades.
During an interview with The Associated Press in 2013, Tyson disclosed that she had been very selective throughout her career about what she was doing. She added that she wasn’t only working for money but also wanted real substance.
Tyson remained active even in her 90s and in May 2015, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Alliance for Women in Media at the Grace Awards.
In 2016, Tyson was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the then president of United States, Barack Obama which she described as her most important accomplishment.
Later in 2018, Tyson became the first Black woman to receive an honorary Oscar before she was selected for the Peabody Career Achievement Award for her work on the stage, in film and on television two years later.
The actress was also one of 25 Black women honored for their contributions to art, entertainment and civil rights as part of Oprah Winfrey’s 2005 Legends Ball.
The icon was very active in charity and arts organizations including Urban Gateways, the Human Family Institute and the American Film Institute and she received awards from the National Council of Negro Women and the NAACP as well as the Capitol Press Award.
In recent years, she was part of a panel discussion for “Cherish the Day,” an eight-episode OWN anthology series created and produced by Ava DuVernay.
Various actors including Tyler Perry, Oprah, Viola Davis have expressed shock in the passing Tyson.
Other prominent figures who paid their respect to the icon include Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, the children of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr just to mention a few.