January 29, 2021

Pioneering Hollywood Icon Cicely Tyson Dies at 96 — Look inside Her Life and Career

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"How to Get Away with Murder" star Cicely Tyson passed away at 96 on January 28. Throughout her 60-year career, she delivered glorious performances that made television history. 

The world lost an icon on January 28 after Cicely Tyson, an actress who shot to fame with a series of pivotal roles, died at 96. She was best known for her roles in "The Help," "Sounder," and "The Trip to Bountiful."

Tyson's 60-year career saw her morph into one iconic character after another. A groundbreaking actress who won hearts with her depth, she portrayed women of strength and substance on screen, too. 

Cicely Tyson at the Grand Opening Gala of Tyler Perry Studios on October 5, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. | Source: Getty Images


The actress was born in New York City on December 19, 1924. She grew up in Harlem, New York City, where she would take up a typing job. A fire inside her wanted more from life, so she left her routine life behind to pursue modeling.

It was then that the actress fell in love with acting. As a child, she was never permitted to go to plays or movies. Her family frowned upon a career in the entertainment industry. 

Cicely Tyson attends the 2013 Princess Grace Awards Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on October 30, 2013 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images


So when Tyson decided to follow her dreams and landed her first acting gig, her religious mother kicked her out of their home. The pain of rejection cut deep, but she found success as an actress. 

The clamor of success and accolades made it seem like Tyson had the world at her feet, but she often had trouble finding work.


In 1963, Tyson made a mark after becoming the first Black star of a TV drama in "East Side/West Side." Her big moment came in 1972 when she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Sounder."

A year later, Tyson's role in "Roots" earned her two Emmy Awards. In 1977, she became a member of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. As her career soared to new heights, the actress moved to Broadway in 1983.


A third Emmy made its way to Tyson's deserving hands when she landed a role in "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," a CBS miniseries TV adaptation. 

The clamor of success and accolades made it seem like Tyson had the world at her feet, but she often had trouble finding work. As a rule, she rejected scripts that did not make her skin tingle. She looked for meaning and substance.

Cicely Tyson holds the two Emmy Awards that she won for her performance in "The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman" on May 28, 1974 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images


More recently, Tyson received many awards for her role in the 2011 movie "The Help." In 2013, she bagged a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Play. A gift that kept on giving, she vowed to never retire.

Tyson was married to Miles Davis from 1981 and never remarried after getting divorced in 1988. Her legacy will live on in her charitable work and iconic roles.