Cicely Tyson, the movie and fashion icon, dies at 96

The Emmy and Tony-winning actress, who broke barriers for Black actresses died on Thursday at the age of 96. Her manager, Larry Thompson informed the public today, without revealing the cause of her death. In the statement, Thompson said:

“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing, Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”

During her career, she embodied African American women who demanded attention and respect, and she brought a sense of grace, nobility, and character in each and every one of her characters.

The iconic actress at the Princess Grace Awards Gala in 2013

Even though she had a rich career, with dozens of important roles, she stated several times that her most important accomplishment happened in 2016 when President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom. When he awarded her the medal, former President Obama said:

“In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only exceeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.”

Former President Barack Obama presenting Tyson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

After the news of her death, Obama shared a heartfelt tweet:

The actress was part of almost 100 movies, and some of the most significant roles Tyson had were in “Sounder” (1972), “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), “Roots” (1977), “The Marva Collins Story” (1981), “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989), and “The Help” (2011).

Tyson in her role in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974)

Younger generations remember her the best from her role in the award-winning show, “How to Get Away with Murder”, where she played the mother of Viola Davis’s character. Davis was another celebrity who shared her pain on Twitter, saying:

Throughout her career, the pioneering actress refused to play drug addicts, prostitutes, or maids, roles she thought demeaning to Black women. Tyson was nominated for the Golden Globe award in 1973, for her role in “Sounder” (1972). She won two Primetime Emmy awards for playing Jane Pittman, in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), she was nominated for countless other awards.

For her role in “Sounder” (1972), the actress was nominated for an Academy Award, and that was her only Oscar nomination. In 2018, 45 years after the nomination, she finally received the honorary golden statue, and she is the only Black woman to do so.

Cicely Tyson in her role in “Sounder” (1972)

A countless number of celebrities, peers, and people who have looked up to Tyson had shared their grief on social media, and they all said that it was a pleasure to have known a person as dedicated, noble, and talented as Cecile was.

Tyson was married to jazz great Miles Davis from 1981 to 1988. She was a godmother to the singer Lenny Kravitz, and Denzel Washington’s daughter. She will be remembered as a legend, a pioneer, and as a role model for everyone who had the honor to know her work.

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