HOLLYWOOD—Former model and legendary actress Cicely L. Tyson, 96, passed away on Thursday, January 28. According to Tyson’s family and her manager Larry Thompson, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Cicely paved the gateway for African-American women seeking an opportunity in the entertainment industry.
Her refined attitude and style kept her from accepting any type of roles that she felt denigrated women of color. At the age of 88, she won a Tony Award in 2013. She received accolades for her role in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” She earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role as a sharecropper’s wife in the 1972 drama “Sounder” which was also nominated for Best Picture.
Tyson won a two Emmy Awards for her role in “The Autobiography of Jane Pittman” as Lead Actress in a TV Movie.
While being interviewed Cicely said “People ask me what I prefer doing? film, stage, television? I say, ‘I would have done “Jane Pittman” in the basement or in a storefront.’ It’s the role that determines where I go.”
Tyson portrayed a love interest to Sammy Davis Jr‘s in “A Man Called Adam” and appeared in the films “The Last Angry Man” and “The Comedians.” She also appeared on Broadway in “The Cool World,” “Tiger,” “Tiger Burning Bright.”
Tyson was cast with Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and James Earl Jones in a 1961 production of French playwright Jean Genet’s “The Blacks.” In 1963, she played in “East Side, West Side,” with George C. Scott.
In 1977, she played Binta mother of Kunta Kinte (Levar Burton) in Alex Haley’s miniseries “Roots. In 1994, Tyson won a supporting actress Emmy Award for her performance in “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.”
Cicely Tyson continued her career with roles in “The Blue Bird,” “Concorde Airport 79,” “The Grass Harp,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” as well as the eight-episode OWN anthology series “Cherish the Day” created and produced by Ava DuVernay. Recently, she played Viola Davis’ mother on the ABC TV drama “How to Get Away with Murder.”
She was married to jazz musician Miles Davis in 1981. Their wedding was at Bill Cosby’s home in Massachusetts. They filed for divorce in 1988.
She was born on December 19, 1924, in New York, where attended New York University. She received an Honorary Academy Award in 2018. Her memoir, “Just As I Am” was published two days before her death on January 26.
Tyson leaves behind one daughter and her family has asked for privacy during this time.