July 20, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Trailblazing Actress Cicely Tyson Dies At 96

Iconic actress, former model and civil rights activist Cicely Tyson has died at the age of 96. 

Tyson’s manager Larry Thompson confirmed her death although he did not state where she died or the cause of her death. 

One of her biggest roles was “Sounder” in 1972, when she played the wife of a Depression-era sharecropper who holds her family together after her husband goes to jail for stealing food to feed his family. Tyson received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

After a 30 year absence Tyson returned years later with a role in “The Trip to Bountiful.” Her performance won Tyson the 2013 Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play. Throughout her career she’s won three Emmy awards and a Tony. 

The roles didn’t always come easy for Tyson. Early on, she had trouble finding work because she flatly refused to do “blaxploitation” films, which were all the rage in the 1970s. Tyson insisted to take on roles that reflected the power and grace of Black women in America

“Unless a piece really said something, I had no interest in it,” she told an interviewer in 1983. “I have got to know that I have served some purpose here.’’

A trailblazer for black actresses, Tyson was the first Black woman to appear on TV with natural hair, triggering a “not-so-minor revolution in the minds of young black women,” Ms. Magazine recounted. 

In 2016 she was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award. At the ceremony President Obama stated, “In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.” She recalls this moment in her memoir “Just as I Am” which was released on Jan. 26. 

In 1990, the first annual GLAAD media awards honored “The Women of Brewster Place” with Outstanding Television Mini-Series.  Produced by Oprah Winfrey, it featured an ensemble cast of African-American actors; among them was Cicely Tyson. GLAAD honored this mini-series for its LGBT content and rich diversity.

With a career that has spanned over 50 years Cicely Tyson brought an heir of elegance, sophistication and strength to every role she played. 

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