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Cicely Tyson Has Died

Cicely Tyson of 'Cherish The Day' speaks onstage during the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network portion of the Discovery, Inc. TCA Winter Panel 2020
(Image credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.)

Cicely Tyson, star of stage and screen, died Jan. 28. She was 96. Tyson’s TV work included Roots, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, How to Get Away With Murder and House of Cards, and her films included Sounder, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Bustin’ Loose and Fried Green Tomatoes. On stage, she was in The Trip to Bountiful, To Be Young, Gifted and Black and The Gin Game

Tyson was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Television Hall of Fame in 2020. 

Tyson took a stand against playing parts that demeaned Black women, such as prostitutes and drug addicts, and urged other Black actors to follow suit. 

She played Rebecca, wife of a Louisiana sharecropper, in Sounder, and Kunta Kinte’s mother in Roots. She played Coretta Scott King in the NBC miniseries King and Harriet Tubman in the film A Woman Called Moses

Tyson was born in Harlem in 1924. She was a model before becoming an actress. She helped found the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969. Tyson was married to trumpeter Miles Davis from 1981 to 1989. In 2016, President Obama awarded Tyson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Tyson’s memoir Just As I Am came out this week. 

Tyson was nominated for 16 Emmys; her Emmy wins include her work in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and the miniseries Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

In recent years, Tyson played Ophelia Harkness in ABC drama How to Get Away With Murder and Doris Jones in Netflix drama House of Cards

“She’s our Meryl Streep,” actress Vanessa Williams told Essence in 2013. 

Earlier this week, Gayle King aired an emotional interview with the legendary actress on CBS This Morning

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.