Cicely Tyson, the trailblazing Black actor who earned an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” died Thursday at age 96.
The model, Tyson, started to be a television and motion picture actress beginning in the 1970s. Tyson kept refusing offers in hope of making better ones.
Her Humble Background
Tyson’s parents moved from the island of Nevis in the Caribbean to New York, where Cicely was born in 1924. She was the youngest of three children. When her parents split up, her mother went on government social support. Cicely was selling shopping bags on the streets of Harlem.
After graduation, she found a job as a secretary at the Red Cross. But her friends encouraged her to get a job as a model or television actress.
“My mother told me that she could no longer let me continue living at home, as I was determined to be an actress,” she stated. “I agreed and moved out,”
Cicely Tyson Shares a Story About Her Caribbean Mom
Tyson was married once, to the great jazz player Miles Davis. The wedding took place in February 1981 at Bill Cosby’s Massachusetts home attended by show business personalities. The couple divorced in 1988,
She was unique and won numerous awards for her roles.
Besides being nominated for an Oscar, she received two Emmy nods. In 2018, she was awarded the best actress Oscar. “I come from a humble background”, she said as she recalled growing up as a young black woman. “I still have a hard time believing that I met with presidents, monarchs, and royalty.” Why am I here? I admire it!”
Cicely was known for her “striking appearance: with striking bone structure, a magnificent skin complexion, dark penetrating eyes, and a regal air that made her seem a woman of convictions and commitment. (Audiences) genuinely sensed… her power and range.”
“Sounder”, based on William H. Armstrong novel, was released in 1972 and proved her stardom. Tyson played a mother whose husband is kept in jail for a small piece of meat that was stolen. She had to take care of her siblings’ children and the farm.
“The Black female protagonist has an extraordinary passage in the novel, passing her visible beauty by so that we, at long last, get some sense of the profound beauty of millions of Black women.”
Her performance achieved extremely high reviews and earned her a Best Actress nomination.
In an interview on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, she recalled that she had been asked to test for a smaller role in the film and said she wanted to play the mother, Rebecca. She was told, “You’re too young, you’re too pretty, you’re too sexy, you’re too this, you’re too that, and I said, `I am an actress.’”
After her role as “Sounder” and “Miss Jane Pittman”, Tyson remained active with roles in “Roots”, “King”, and “The Rosa Parks Story”.
Former President Bill Clinton, wrote an article regarding her self-identity to be a torch, promoting the humanity of minorities. The central aspect of Winfrey’s book is that her actions and her past reflect her values.
She began her film career in the early 1980s with roles in “The Blue Bird,” “Concorde,” “Airliner 79,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Grass Harp” and Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
She won an award in 1994 for her role in “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.” She also received four more Emmys, including in 1986 for “Roots.”
In recent years, she has appeared in several documentaries. She is best known for playing Viola Davis’ character’s mother on “How to Get Away with Murder.”.
She had a unique style
Tyson stood out whenever she was in public. At the 2018 funeral of Aretha Franklin, singer Normani wore a hat that looked extremely scary on purpose. The hat will become a viral Internet meme soon.
I never thought that I would be overshadowed by a piece of paper. “At that point, I still did not want to wear it,” he explained. “I said, ‘I can’t wear that hat, I will be blocking the view of the people behind me, they won’t be able to see, and they’ll call me all kinds of names.’”.
She defended the hat by saying she liked it because of FDR’s visit at Obama’s inauguration.
Cicely Tyson Emotional Speech That Left Everyone Crying
9 Inspiring Quotes by Cicely Tyson
- “The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are. Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.”
- “Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch – what make you go beyond the norm.”
- “I am not a quitter. I will fight until I drop. It is just a matter of having some faith in the fact that as long as you are able to draw breath in the universe, you have a chance.”
- “If each person in this world will simply take a small piece of this huge thing, this amazing quilt, and work it regardless of the color of the yarn, we will have harmony on this planet.”
- “Whatever good I have accomplished as an actress I believe came in direct proportion to my efforts to portray black women who have made positive contributions to my heritage.”
- “I saw that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress. So, I made a choice to use my career as a platform to address the issues of the race I was born into.”
- “All I have to do is find someone who has something to say that will enrich my life and they can’t get rid of me.”
- “Children should have a balanced start in life: a mother and a father. I think that’s the only reason to get married.”
- “When I attack a role, be it TV, film, or stage, the first thing I say is, I don’t want to know anything. If it is good, I don’t want to hear it, if it is bad, I don’t want to hear it. The only thing either thing can do is distract me. I like to stay focused.”
- “I select my roles carefully. Unfortunately, I am not that person who works for a lot of money. This is not something I can do that easily; I want something more substantial.”
Thousands of people sent in tributes to her death including several public figures, moviemakers, and other individuals. There is always pride when you do something according to expectation.
Tyson’s “Just as I Am” memoirs were released this week.