Cicely Tyson is a legendary African American actress. She is known for her remarkable performance in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and The Help, and has been nominated for a BAFTA Award and won two Emmy Awards. She was also nominated for highly prestigious Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award.
Cicely Tyson was born to Theodosia and William Tyson in Harlem. Her father worked as a carpenter and painter and did other odd jobs. Her parents migrated to United States from Nevis in the West Indies. Tyson began her career as a fashion model when an Ebony magazine photographer discovered her. In 1951, she was landed her first acting role on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith. She did a few television series, such as the soap opera The Guiding Light and East Side/West Side, before she took up her first film role. In 1956, she was casted in the film Carib Gold. She was an original cast member in the celebrated non-musical longest running Broadway play The Blacks written by Jean Genet’s. Other cast members included names like Godfrey Cambridge, James Earl Jones and Maya Angelou.
Moreover, she made an appearance alongside with Sammy Davis Jr. in the film A Man Called Adam and in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968). She also played a role in the adaptation of Graham Greene’s work of fiction, The Comedians (1967). Her astounding performance in the critically acclaimed film, Sounder, had her nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other highly acclaimed works include, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, When No One Would Listen and Roots; King, in which she played Coretta Scott King. For her roles in these series she won several Emmy Awards.
Tyson’s acting career also reflected on all the women and to appreciate her outstanding representation of women in the entertainment industry she received the Women in Film Crystal Award. Besides, she played strong characters such as her role as a civil rights activist and attorney named Carrie Grace Battle in Sweet Justice. In order to render her performance more realistic she consulted with a noted civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson. She took up other film projects like Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Because of Winn-Dixie. In 2005, she was invited as special guest at the famous Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball.
In 2010, she narrated the special documentary Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream, which won the “Paul Robeson Award”. The same year she made her first appearance in the music video of Willow Smith’s 21st Century Girl and took up a role in Why Did I Get Married Too. It was followed by her appearance as Constantine Jefferson in the Oscar-nominated drama, The Help, focused on the subject of racism and harsh treatment of blacks in the twentieth century Southern America. Tyson’s role in the recent play, The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts garnered her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She received several other accolades such as the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a play.
Additionally, a magnet school in New Jersey was renamed after her as The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. Cicely Tyson actively supports this school, established especially for the most underprivileged African American communities.