Legendary American Actress Cicely Tyson Dies Aged 96

Pioneering Hollywood actress Cicely Tyson – who was known for portraying strong African-American characters – has died aged 96, her manager has said.

No cause of the death was given. The former fashion model had a career that spanned seven decades.

Tyson won two Emmys for her performance in the 1974 civil rights-era film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

She also became the first black woman to take on a main role in the TV drama East Side/West Side in the 1960s.

Presenting Tyson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the then US President Barack Obama said that apart from her achievements as an actress, she had also shaped the course of history.

Tyson turned down stereotypical roles for black women, agreeing only to play characters that were strong, positive and realistic.

Born in New York’s Harlem, she was raised by her devoutly religious parents from the Caribbean island of Nevis.

After being discovered by a fashion editor at Ebony magazine her modelling career took off. By 1957, she was acting in off-Broadway productions and went on to gain small roles in feature films before she was cast as Portia in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in 1968.

Tyson was nominated for a best actress Oscar and Golden Globe in 1973 for Sounder, about a family of poor black sharecroppers in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933 Louisiana.

She continued with such films as “The Blue Bird,” “Concorde — Airport ’79,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Grass Harp” and Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

She won a supporting actress Emmy in 1994 for “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.” She was nominated for Emmys several other times, including for “Roots,” “King,” “The Marva Collins Story” “Sweet Justice” and “A Lesson Before Dying.”

In recent years, she was part of a panel discussion for “Cherish the Day,” an eight-episode OWN anthology series created and produced by Ava DuVernay. She played the mother of Viola Davis‘ character on “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Tyson was married once, to jazz great Miles Davis. The wedding was held in 1981 at Bill Cosby’s home in Massachusetts, attended by show business notables. They divorced in 1988.

 

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