An African American icon, Cicely Tyson, passed away on Jan. 28, 2021. She was one of the biggest African American screen actresses. Her career started in 1951 on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith. Before that, she was discovered by a photographer and modeled for Ebony magazine. She passed with 25 awards, including a Tony Award for the movie The Trip to Bountiful. The 96-year-old had a career spanning for over seven decades.
Tyson was born Dec. 19, 1924, in Harlem, NY as one of three kids. She had her first daughter at the age of 17 and married Kenneth Franklin at age 18. They ended up divorcing in less than 18 months, but Tyson soon ended up dating in the 1960s and remarried in 1981.
Many different celebrities have honored Tyson for paving the way for black women specifically.
“She paved a way that created space for girls like me to feel the light,” says actress Regina Hall.
Not only did she win television awards, but she also won the highest civilian honor, and it was given to her by the 44th U.S president, Barack Obama. After receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she also became the first black woman to receive an honorary Oscar. In 2018 she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Last year, she was chosen to be inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.
In 2009, The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine arts was created in East Orange, New Jersey. She has also been honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball, the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the National Council of Negro Women. The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame inducted Tyson in 1977. She also has honorary degrees from four colleges including Morehouse College, which is an all-male HBCU.
Tyson was an inspiration for many. Her biggest influences were on African Americans. As she got older, she did more, and earned more. Tyson created many cracks and crevices for black girls. She left a mark on the world that could never be outdone. Freshman Aaliyah Meadows says, “I enjoyed the movies that she was in. She really did pave the way for young black females.”