Entertainment UK

Pioneering award winning Hollywood actress Cicely Tyson has died

Cicely Tyson, known for roles in Sounder and Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman, has died at the age of 96, her manager said.

Cicely, a former fashion model, became known for playing strong African American characters over a glittering career spanning seven decades.

The trailblazing actress won three Emmys, a SAG Award, a Tony and an honorary Academy Award.

Cicely died peacefully on Thursday, according to a statement. No cause of death was given.

Larry Thompson, Tyson’s manager, said: “I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing.

“Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a star, on top of the tree.”

Cicely Tyson
Actress Cicely Tyson poses for a portrait in circa 1960. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Born in Harlem, Cicely started her career in fashion after being spotted by a photographer for Ebony magazine.

Her first film role came in 1956 B-movie Carib Gold and she followed it up with a ground-breaking stint on gritty TV drama East Side/West Side.

The series first aired in 1963 and marked the first time an African American starred in a television drama.

In 1972 came the role that brought Cicely widespread fame and acclaim. She played Rebecca Morgan in Sounder, a film about black sharecroppers trying to survive the Great Depression.

Cicely Tyson
President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Cicely Tyson in 2016

Cicely was nominated for both the Bafta and Oscar for best actress.

She won two Emmys for starring as a 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 TV film The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman and in 2016 was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, the highest civilian honour in the US.

At the time, Obama said: “Cicely’s convictions and grace have helped for us to see the dignity of every single beautiful memory of the American family.”

Cicely starred in 2011 period drama The Help, alongside Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.

Euphoria star Zendaya has joined those paying tribute to Tyson.

The actress said: “This one hurts, today we honour and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”

The Academy, the body which oversees the Oscars, also shared a tribute.

It said: “Early in her career, Cicely Tyson promised herself that she would only portray strong women. Harriet Tubman. Coretta Scott King. Miss Jane Pittman, and so many others.

“An Honorary Oscar winner in 2019 for her extraordinary body of work, she led by example and will be missed.”

Sex And The City actress Cynthia Nixon also paid tribute, saying: “America has had a lot of great actresses, but none greater than Cicely Tyson. Rest in Power”

Robin Thede, the comedian and actress, described Tyson’s death as a “massive loss”.

She said: “Cicely Tyson is one of those legends you’d hoped we would have forever. And you knew it was a silly dream but you dreamt it anyway. This day is hard for so many reasons. This is a massive loss. Thank you for your gifts, queen.”

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