Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Cicely Tyson has died, according to a statement from her manager, Larry Thompson. She was 96.
“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” Thompson said. “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.”
A star in theater, television, and film, Tyson famously resisted the sort of Blaxploitation roles Hollywood tried to force many actors of color into in the 1970s.
She rose to prominence in the 1961 Off Broadway production of Jean Genet‘s The Blacks. Many years later, she won a Tony for her role in a revival of The Trip to Bountiful.
She was also known for playing Jane Foster in the 1960s TV drama East Side/West Side, which was the first-ever reoccurring role for a Black woman.
Tyson was also one of the founding members of the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969.
Over the years, she appeared in both film and TV; her notable TV appearances included titles like Brown Girl, Brown Stones in 1960 and Between Yesterday and Today. She also appeared in Naked City, The Nurses, I Spy, Slattery’s People, and The Bill Cosby Show.
Tyson’s film debut was in 1957 with a small role in Twelve Angry Men. She followed that up with 1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow starring Harry Belafonte.
One of Tyson most prominent roles was in the 1972 drama Sounder, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Many will also remember her appearances in TV movie Miss Jane Pittman (1974), the 1970s miniseries Roots, Wilma (1977), and King: The Martin Luther King Story (1978).
In the 2000s, Tyson was a prominent personality in Tyler Perry vehicles like Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea’s Family Reunion (2006), and Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010). She also starred in 2011’s The Help, among other major supporting roles at the time like Alex Cross, Showing Roots, Last Flag Flying, and A Fall from Grace.
In 2013, she won a Tony for Best Actress for her turn as Carrie Watts in the revival of A Trip to Bountiful.
She also popped up in recent prestige TV shows like House of Cards and How To Get Away With Murder.
In her personal life, Tyson was famously married to jazz great Miles Davis from 1981 to 1988.
In 2018, Tyson was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Two years later, she was chosen to be inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.