Cicely Tyson, the Black actress who shattered glass ceilings and won multiple awards, said goodbye on Thursday, January 28, at 96. Two days before her passing, her first memoir was released titled “Just As I am.”
Tyson created a pathway in Hollywood for Black women that opened doors. Her roles included playing a former slave, civil rights icon, sharecroppers, truthteller, mother, and other complex roles. Through these characters, Tyson displayed her profoundness, grace, and humility.
Stunned to hear that Cicely Tyson had joined the ancestors. Words like “trailblazer,” “genius,” and “legend” are shamefully insufficient when describing Ms. Tyson. May she rest in perfect peace.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) January 29, 2021
Some of her most famous movies and shows she was in were the wons that had Black women in lead roles, including “Sounder” from 1972, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” in 1974, “Roots,” from 1977 “The Women of Brewster Place,” in 1989, and most recently in 2011, “The Help.”
In Tyson’s memoir, despite all the hurdles she surpassed, she said her proudest moment was in 2016 when then-President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
In an interview with Steve Harvey, Tyson said, “I am one of three children, grew up in the area that is now known as El Barrio and that was the East Side (of New York) To come from there to the White House with the first black President … to put that medal around my neck: Where can you go from there?”
Cicely Tyson was born on December 19, 1924, in New York. From a very early age, her passion lied in performing, playing piano, and singing at her parish as a child. After graduating high school, Tyson attended New York University.
The beginning of her entertainment career was as a model when a fashion editor at Ebony magazine took an interest in her in the 1950s. She performed in theater for almost ten years before guest-starring on television shows regularly by the mid-’60s.
In her first breakout role in 1972’s “Sounder,” she portrayed the glue of the family with the Depression-era sharecroppers, a movie based on William H. Armstrong’s novel.
This film led to her first and only Oscar nomination. Almost five decades later, she received the Oscars’ golden statue in 2018, an honorary Oscar. She was the only Black woman until now to receive this honor.
According to Variety, Tyson refused to play roles like a drug addict, prostitution, or maid, where she believed it was disrespectful.
We lost a strong Black woman who left a legacy behind, and paved the way for many others to follow her footsteps. However, she lives on through her vital roles.