Tributes were pouring in Friday for iconic Emmy and Tony-winning actress Cicely Tyson, who shattered racial stereotypes over a seven-decade career.
Tyson died Thursday at age 96 – just two days after the publication of her memoir, “Just As I Am.”
Oprah Winfrey perhaps captured her best, writing (quote), “Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people. The roles she played reflected her values. She never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness.”
Throughout Tyson’s distinguished career – which ranged from her breakthrough film role in 1972’s Oscar-nominated “Sounder” to recent parts on TV shows “How to Get Away with Murder” and “House of Cards” – Tyson stood firm in her refusal to take roles she deemed demeaning to Black women.
Despite great success on stage and in films, it was television that made her a household name, with groundbreaking performances in 1974’s “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” 1977’s “Roots” and 1994’s “The Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All.”
In the 2000s, Tyson worked steadily in film thanks in part to Tyler Perry who cast her in several of his movies.
Of her death Perry wrote (quote), “This one brought me to my knees! She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup. My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next.”
Tyson was married to jazz great Miles Davis from 1981 to 1988.
Her numerous awards also included honors from the NAACP, and in 2016 President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Obama on social media wrote (quote), “She had a heart unlike any other—and for 96 years, she left a mark on the world that few will ever match.”