The Legacy of Cicely Tyson


Jordyn Bew, Entertainment Editor

Cicely Tyson, the great model, actress, and humanitarian, died last week at the age of 96 on 28 January. This surprising news came right when Black History Month was beginning to be celebrated by the nation. The legacy of Tyson is filled with historical roles and acts of rebellion, as she declined to take on roles where the black woman was unfairly depicted.

According to Variety, Miss Tyson’s death was announced by her family, through her manager, Larry Thompson, who didn’t initially provide further 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 by Mr. Thompson.

Though she’s gone, the world will never forget her talent or her resilient spirit. Let’s take a look at her incredible life and the way she transformed Hollywood.

In an interview with Gayle King that aired just days before her death on “CBS This Morning,” Tyson said: “Every one of us that looks like me are all not in a position of servitude. I don’t look for anything or ask for anything other than to be treated like a human being. That’s all.” 

She carried this sentiment with her throughout her career, as she played characters in powerful movies, television, and stage roles, including “The Blacks,” “Sounder,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Roots,” “The Help,” “Cherish The Day,” “Bustin’ Loose,” and a number of Tyler Perry movies that included “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

From ingenious roles to groundbreaking firsts, Cicely Tyson has accomplished a great deal in her seven-decade career. She used her talent as a multi-faceted performer on stage and on screens, both large and small. 

Cicely Tyson stole the heart of Black America, in addition to being a brilliant actress who shattered racial barriers. In a world that values whiteness, Cicely became a beauty champion who declared that Black is beautiful. According to CNN, she became one of the first black actresses to wear afro hair, inspiring Black women to follow. The article further states that her influence once again reigned supreme when she wore cornrows while promoting the movie “Sounder” in 1972. Just a year later, Cicely Tyson helped usher in a new perspective for braided styles when she appeared in Jet Magazine in March 1973.

Her career sustained success as she was awarded the Kennedy Center lifetime achievement award in  2015. The next year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

 Cicely Tyson published her awaited memoir, Just As I Am, just two days before her death. While she spent decades telling other people’s tales, it was when she shared her own stories. 

Cicely Tyson expresses her desire to be remembered for doing her best in one of her last interviews with Oprah Winfrey, and her wish will be fulfilled.