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Published On: January 29, 2021 02:55 PM NPT By: Associated Press

Cicely Tyson, purposeful and pioneering actor, dead at 96

Cicely Tyson, purposeful and pioneering actor, dead at 96


Cicely Tyson, the pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” died Thursday at age 96.

Tyson’s death was announced by her family, via her manager Larry Thompson, who did not immediately provide additional details.

“With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,” according to a statement issued through Thompson.

A onetime model, Tyson began her screen career with bit parts but gained fame in the early 1970s when Black women were finally starting to get starring roles. Tyson refused to take parts simply for the paycheck, remaining choosey.

“I’m very selective as I’ve been my whole career about what I do. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who works only for money. It has to have some real substance for me to do it,” she told The Associated Press in 2013.

Tributes from two former presidents and from across the worlds of Hollywood and Broadway poured in, with many praising her careful approach to her career and activism. “She took pride in knowing that whenever her face was on camera, she would be playing a character who was a human being — flawed but resilient; perfect not despite but because of their imperfections,” wrote former President Barack Obama, who awarded Tyson the Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Former President Bill Clinton wrote online that Tyson “brought complex characters to life with dignity and heart, and humanity and depth, always remaining true to herself.” “She used her career to illuminate the humanity in Black people. The roles she played reflected her values,” wrote Oprah Winfrey.

Tyson’s memoir, “Just As I Am,” was published this week. Besides her Oscar nomination, she won two Emmys for playing the 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” A new generation of moviegoers saw her in the 2011 hit “The Help.”


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