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Profile of the Day: Cicely Tyson

Today we remember legendary actress Cicely Tyson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 96. An acting pioneer, Tyson’s trailblazing career spanned more than seven decades.

Image: Cicely Tyson / Nationaal Archief

Tyson was born on December 19, 1924 in Harlem, New York City, New York. Her parents, William Augustine Tyson and Fredricka Theodosia Huggins, were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies.

She first got her start in the 1950s when was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine. Her modeling career quickly took off and she soon landed roles on television, becoming the first African American woman to nab a recurring role on a television drama in the series East Side/West Side. Selective in her choices, Tyson sought roles that portrayed strong, positive images of Black women. In 1972, she starred in the film Sounder and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance. Two years later, she starred in the television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Her memorable performance earned her two Emmy awards. Throughout her career, she would receive a total of 16 Emmy nominations.

In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Two years later, she received an honorary Academy Award, becoming the first African American woman to receive an honorary Oscar.

Just two days before her death, Tyson published her memoir Just As I Am.

RIP Cicely Tyson.

View Cicely Tyson’s Geni Profile

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