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.
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